Police want to zone out hooking
Salem might try to keep people from returning to high-prostitution areas
March 6, 2006
Salem police want to create a "prostitution-free zone" in North Salem that would make it easier to arrest repeat violators.
Hookers and johns arrested for prostitution would be barred from returning to the zone for a set amount of time, Sgt. Russ Isham said.
"Once someone is excluded, the minute we see them in that area, we can arrest them for criminal trespass," said Isham, who is with the police Community Response Section.
The proposed law is similar to one Salem uses to cut down on cruising and is being reviewed by police and the city's legal department. Once it is ready, it will go to the Salem City Council for a vote.
The zone would be mainly along Broadway north of downtown Salem but could extend west to Front Street and east to Portland Road, Isham said.
"We're finding that if the girls know we work a particular street, they move into neighborhoods," Isham said. "By extending the zone, we can keep them from going deeper into residential areas."
Highland area resident Darlene Strozut lives along Broadway and said she occasionally has had to shoo prostitutes from in front of her home. She also has known of women out on walks who were mistakenly approached by johns who thought they were prostitutes.
"That's an unpleasant byproduct of that profession," Strozut said. "It can be very threatening."
However, Strozut said she would like to see the finished policy before she gives it her wholehearted endorsement. For example, she's not happy that signs bearing the word "prostitution" might be posted throughout her neighborhood.
Councilor Rick Stucky, who represents the area, supports the idea but agrees with Strozut's concern.
"That's kind of one of the things I'm wanting to find out about, what the exact wording has to be on the signs," he said. "Can we have the signs read something that shows this is a proactive neighborhood cutting down on crime, so that it's not sending a completely negative message?"
There have been about 60 prostitution arrests citywide in the past two years, Isham said, but he thinks that number doesn't reflect the severity the problem.
Police don't have the manpower to conduct regular prostitution stings, for one thing.
"We either have to observe the act ourselves, or have undercover officers pick up prostitutes, or have female officers out acting as prostitutes to catch the johns," Isham said.
Because prostitution is a misdemeanor, people arrested often are back on the street in a matter of hours.
The zone would put new teeth into prostitution crackdowns, as police would be able to re-arrest streetwalkers without conducting another full-fledged sting operation.
The length of exclusion hasn't been determined, but it could last from one to three months. People cited for prostitution would have several days to challenge the exclusion before it took effect, Isham said.