Wednesday, February 19, 1997

Kim Pemberton

p. B4.

Prostitute policy upsets citizens

Neighbors say a new policy makes it hard to prevent prostitution

Vancouver police have given prostitutes "cart blanche" to ply their trade anywhere in the city with the decision not to arrest them, says Councillor Gordon Price.

And residents and businesses in the East Hastings area worry the new police policy will hamper their efforts to prevent prostitutes from working there.

The comments from the East Hastings residents and Price, a long-time opponent of legalizing prostitution, come after police said they are no longer charging prostitutes unless there are unusual circumstances.

Police say the policy recognizes that sex trade workers are actually victims and police resources are better spent pursuing johns and pimps.

while Mayor Philip Owen has said he supports the policy, Price disagreed that prostitutes are victims. He said he's skeptical the plan to arrest only pimps and customers will work.

"It's open season for prostitutes to go where they wish," said Price. "While the victim argument is appealing, the moment you say they have no choice you take away some of their humanity and rights.... But prostitutes are not powerless. They moved into a residential are on a 24 hour basis. They had choice."

Some East Hastings residents and businesses have recently begun holding meetings to deal with prostitution.

"Police have basically let this area become a red light district," said Cindy Piper of the Hastings East Neighborhood group. "That's a jam-out [not to charge]. They're just going to let it get worse."

Howard Orbrand, general manager of Beatty Floors at Pandora and Victoria, said police have pushed prostitutes into the area. "We've had to put iron bars on our windows. I find condoms and syringes every day and the police response is for us to put garbage receptacles out. Police deciding not to deal with the problem is a problem."

But Leonard Cler-Cunningham, of Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education praised the new policy. "It's finally recognizing 30 years of research that prostitution needs a social response and not a criminal one."

Joanne Russell, a former sex trade worker who now counsels prostitutes, believes police are finally taking the right approach.

"It's time police and society see them as victims because they truly are victims. No woman goes into prostitution because she wants to. There are other factors, child abuse, abandonment, poverty, oppression."

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Created: February 18, 1997
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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