By Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller
Last September, neighbors stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a press conference at the corner of Main and Hitchcock streets to acknowledge that prostitution was embedded along Main Street from Madison to Webster Square: “Our children, our spouses, and ourselves are being victimized every day by prostitution.
It is not just seeing the prostitutes ply their trade or the johns stalking in their cars and trucks. It is not only the ugly and physical domination of pimps, the unwanted solicitations to our youth and young women, the frequent foul language, and the painful addiction behaviors.
Nor is it solely the fear of our apartment buildings being invaded by desperate individuals. It is all of this for sure. But the real cry comes from the sense of hopelessness that is descending on us that says ‘This is how it is and this is how will be.’”
The group was made up of myself, members of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety, the Main South CDC, Clark University, each of the six crime watches in Main South, St. Peter’s Parish, and local business owners.
After a particularly bad summer of constant prostitution activity we were calling for resources to truly end this blight on our present and future. At the community meeting that followed, Bill Breault (Main South Alliance for Public Safety), Casey Starr (Main South CDC), and myself committed ourselves to form a Curbing Prostitution Task Force to develop a strategy to be implemented by April 2011. Various community members, staff from the YWCA’s Daybreak Program, Worcester Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, and Probation Department met throughout the fall and winter where we rolled up our collective sleeves and produced a consensus community policing strategy.
The key parts of the strategy:
1. Make curbing prostitution a city public safety priority.
2. Continue monthly task force meeting or the next year to assess success/failure and to make the strategy more robust.
3. Active reporting of prostitution behaviors by the community.
4. Decrease demand (males buying sex for a fee).
5. Decrease supply (females selling sex for a fee).
6. Collect and evaluate data on where prostitution is happening.
I am pleased to report that the strategy is now being implemented. You may have recently read about or seen some police stings. These will continue, with particular emphasis on arresting the johns. Probation and the District Attorney’s Office will increase their work to have both female and male offenders sent to the DAWN and CARD programs as a condition of their sentences.
Daybreak and Probation will drive these education programs and collect data on the number of people attending and track recidivism.
The City Manager and the task force will work to find resources for an outreach worker and resources to help women exit prostitution. The Main South Alliance, the Main South CDC and I will soon distribute information to Main South neighbors on how to effectively report prostitution activity.
How you can help:
· OBSERVE prostitution trolling by females and males, · CALL 508 799 8606 and say, “I am reporting prostitution activity,” · REPORT street locations (corner of …, in front of …), activity (female soliciting, male soliciting, etc.), and descriptions (female with white jacket, male in green sedan, etc.), and · JOIN a neighborhood/business association.
Do not expect the police to show up. I repeat, DO NOT EXPECT THE POLICE TO SHOW UP. While this may happen, the purpose of Observe, Call, Report, and Join is to gather data on where and when prostitution is happening. This data will be used to set up stings, increase public safety and community presence in an area, track where the prostitution traffic is moving, and track increases/decreases in prostitution activity along the corridor.
If you want to join the task force, learn when and where a neighborhood association is meeting, need more info, or have some ideas about how we can make a difference, call/email me.
Stay in touch.