SOAP Ordinance: Police would have more powerful tool in battling Midtown prostitution
Community called upon to contact Atlanta city council members and express support for Stay Out of Area – Prostitution legislation, which the city's Public Safety Committee will discuss on Monday, Feb. 11.
- February 10, 2013
Editor's note: The following information was posted on Feb. 6, 2013 by the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance (MPSA) on its website and appears here courtesy of the MPSA. The MPSA has served the Midtown community since 2003 as a non-profit organization by coordinating neighborhood response to public safety and security issues in order to advance the Midtown way of life. The MPSA achieves this objective primarily by operating a neighborhood security patrol funded by its resident and business members, and community sponsors. See here for more information about becoming a member of the MPSA. The MPSA coverage area includes:
- From Juniper Street to the defunct railroad track just east of Monroe Drive and Home Depot
- From Ponce de Leon Avenue to 10th Street.
- Highlighted in green on the map
- All of Kennesaw Avenue, Penn Avenue, Myrtle Street, are in the service area, along with Glen Iris Drive down to but not including North Avenue
SOAP – what it is:
Legislation, known as SOAP (Stay Out of Area – Prostitution) is in the works to more effectively address the problem of street prostitution throughout the city. The SOAP legislation would banish those convicted of prostitution and directly-related offenses from areas noted for a high incidence of prostitution. This banishment would be in effect for the duration of a one-year probation period. Upon a second offense, the offender would be banned from the entire city during the period of probation. Those found in prostitution areas or in city limits, respectively, in violation of the banishment would be arrested on sight. In other words, their mere presence in a prostitution area after an arrest during a vice sting would, in itself, constitute a violation of city ordinance.
Other comparable cities like Seattle have implemented SOAP ordinances to combat street prostitution. This is very similar to SODA (stay out of drug area) and PEO (Parks Exclusion Orders) laws in Seattle and other cities.
Why we need this:
Midtown critically needs this ordinance in order to get rid of certain chronic criminals. All too often APD makes arrests during vice stings, only to see the offenders return right back to where they were arrested perhaps after serving a brief jail time.
With time they become increasingly more difficult to deal with because repeated arrests for prostitution require more turnover among vice detectives than is feasible. The prostitutes know who the vice officers are after one or two arrests, and officers working vice detail have to go through special training.
The SOAP legislation, once passed, will provide police officers with another tool to reduce policing needs in the longer run. It certainly will not be a silver bullet, but will yield one more powerful tool to enhance and maintain a good measure of public safety and order.
How the SOAP legislation would help street prostitutes:
Since illegal drugs drive street prostitution, the mere presence of street prostitutes presents a prolific factor in their involvement in drug activity draining the quality of life in a given community. Any hope of recovery from drug addiction requires first and foremost that the addicted prostitute removes him/herself from an environment in which street prostitution and other enabling factors occur.
Being able to get away with “just one more” seriously undermines any chances of rising above life on the streets. Driving a prostitute to make a choice between jail and rehabilitation very effectively removes them from a life of street crime. We certainly would like to see street prostitutes move beyond this way of life, but at very minimum they must discontinue their negative influence upon the surrounding community. It gives the offender one last opportunity to shape up or ship out. SOAP legislation holds the most promise of accomplishing this objective, and thereby contributing to a win-win situation for all concerned.
Where the SOAP legislation stands now:
The proposed legislation, put together by Councilman Michael Julian Bond, first went through the Public Safety Committee and received a favorable recommendation. But when it went before the full council, it was pulled from the agenda and sent back to the Committee for more work due to opposition from some City Council members. Specifically, councilors Ivory Young, Yolanda Adrean, and Aaron Watson felt that such banishment would be too cruel. So the paper was sent back to the PS-LA Committee to be discussed more on February 11th. This is where the community needs to make a good showing.
Call for action: What's needed from Midtowners:
Our mission for a safer and more orderly neighborhood critically needs support in two ways at this time.
1. Write to City Council
We need you to write to to all Council members and the City Council President expressing support for SOAP legislation and sharing community members’ points of view regarding this long-standing problem of street prostitution in the neighborhood. There is also some resistance among City Council members on the adoption of these new procedures so we need your support. See more information below.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (this will reach all City Councilors and the Council President) and be sure to copy us at email@example.com so we can gauge community support for this legislation.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Please do not merely forward this eblast to city councilmen – they have already received it. Write your own email explaining your thoughts and how street prostitution affects you and your surroundings.
- Please alert other community groups to this important issue.
- We have uploaded a copy of the proposed legislation here
- More details and food for thought linked below
2. We need a strong showing of Midtowners at the Public Safety Committee meeting
We need folks to attend the City Council’s next meeting for the Public Safety Committee on Monday, February 11th. This will be largely a work session to discuss the proposed SOAP Ordinance. There is some resistance to this proposed legislation among city council members, and Midtown residents need a strong showing at this meeting to emphasize certain critical needs in our neighborhood. The official public notice is as follows:
PUBLIC SAFETY AND LEGAL ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE WORK SESSION: Staying Out of Areas of Prostitution (SOAP) Ordinance
13-O-0025 An Ordinance by Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee to amend Chapter 106, Article IV, Division 1, Section 106-127, entitled “Solicitation for an Illicit Sexual Act,” to mandate a sentence of a term of probation for a first conviction of a violation of Section 162-127, and to mandate banishment from geographical areas within the City of Atlanta defined as “Areas of Prostitution” during the time of said probation; to require banishment from “Areas of Prostitution” during the probationary period mandated for a second violation of Section 162-127, should the sentencing court decline to banish the offender from the corporate limits of the City as currently allowed; to remove superfluous sentencing language; and for other purposes.
- MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2013, 1:OO P.M. TO 2:30 P.M.
- COMMITTEE ROOM #2 / CITY HALL, 2nd Floor / 55 TRINITY AVE. / ATLANTA, GEORGIA, 30303
Notes on Street Prostitution in Midtown:
Just beneath the surface of the nuisance activity presented by street prostitutes lie much more serious problems for the afflicted community.
Specific issues lingering:
Street prostitution brings a host of problems into the neighborhood extending well beyond the nuisance and blight of street prostitution itself. Street prostitutes are invariably involved with drugs, and are instrumental in driving other forms of criminal activity in the neighborhood.
Inside the MPSA service area, a band of transvestite prostitutes comes into the neighborhood on a nightly basis and blatantly engages in a wide range of criminal and nuisance activity. This includes considerable drug activity and draws considerable cruising traffic at certain times.
Every once in a while street prostitutes crop up at Ponce & Boulevard, though we have made considerable progress over the years in that area. Those variants, both male and female, are still around in small numbers, but are not nearly as visible as ten years ago.
Outside but near the MPSA service area, male hustlers still loiter around the Cypress Street area.
How street prostitution drives drug activity:
Drug activity routinely appears in one of two scenarios. Most commonly, a prostitute will buy drugs immediately after turning a trick. The prostitute is dropped back off by the john, and then the drug dealer comes along and takes the prostitute for a spin around the block. This keeps drug pushers cruising around the area.
In the other scenario buyers come looking for prostitutes to buy drugs. The prostitute works as a middleman between the dealer and the end buyer. It works something like this: the buyer takes the prostitute for a ride (may or may not involve sex for hire) to give money, drops off the prostitute who then calls a drug dealer to go for a ride, and then returns to the area with the drugs and waits to be picked up by the buyer. The prostitute makes a kickback in the process.
Much of the cruising traffic seen during certain hours is actually drug traffic driven by street prostitutes. Johns normally do not cruise around very long – they make a pickup and then are gone again. The ones driving around for extended periods – more than about 20 minutes – are likely involved with drugs.
Other aspects of street prostitution
Street prostitutes, particularly the transvestite prostitutes, come into the neighborhood on a nightly basis and aggressively assert territory. Particularly the transvestite prostitutes exhibit many traits of gang activity. Residents have been harassed and assaulted by these criminals. Prostitutes are territorial not only toward residents and business owners, but also among themselves, as reflected by occasional quarrels and fights.
Occasionally weapon stashes are found in areas afflicted by street prostitution. In one instance last year, one of the transvestite prostitutes hurled a machete into someone’s yard when they saw police coming along (it was recovered and is now in MPSA custody). Prostitutes often carry knives and blades, and will stash them in shrubbery.
John-rolling occurs with some regularity. The johns are vulnerable, and have little recourse when being victimized by a prostitute. Most of this is not reported to police unless absolutely necessary (like a carjacking). When it is reported, then it is usually reported with different circumstances and locations than it actually occurred. A john who is carjacked runs the risk of being denied insurance coverage because it occurred as they were engaging in criminal activity themselves. This phenomenon certainly brings other criminal elements into the picture.
And last but not least, prostitutes blight any community afflicted by their presence. Residents do not particularly enjoy watching strangers having sex in cars in front of their homes. The lawlessness of their pursuits contributes greatly to a chaotic atmosphere attracting additional crime in the neighborhood.
In short, street prostitution is much more than a broken window that invites more crime into the neighborhood…
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