Can SOAP help clean up Midtown's prostitution?

Weekend undercover sting nets 35 arrests; police and city officials look to establish anti-prostitution areas in Midtown.

As they periodically do, the Atlanta Police Vice Unit teamed with Zone 5 officers last weekend to perform an undercover prostitution sting in and around Midtown and downtown Atlanta.

Midtown Patch rode along and witnessed some of the 35 arrests of mostly male and female prostitutes over a two-day period. Midtown has been plagued with pockets of prostitution for decades and warmer weather only brings more streetwalkers to the area each spring and summer.

The charges were city ordinance violations for solicitations of illicit sex acts. If found guilty, the first offense brings 15 days jail time, the second offense is 60 days, and the third offense is 180 days.

But as those who live and work and play in Midtown know all too well, these mandatory sentences do little to stop the habitual offenders, who get out of jail and head back to the streets. The Midtown Ponce Security Alliance has on its website now a brief update on notorious Midtown prostitute Jackie Sue Hunter, who has been selling sex in Midtown and off Ponce de Leon Ave. for almost 40 years. According to the MPSA, she is currently on felony probation (auto theft) awaiting charges of prostitution.

She has served several prison terms and her extended rap sheet supports the theory that prostitution brings further crime to neighborhoods.

“It is a challenge for the residents, it’s a challenge for the police officers that work in vice and Zone 5 to curb and control it as much as possible - to really have an affect on the quality of the life of the residents that live down here,’’ Lt. Scott Kreher, commander of the Atlanta Police Vice Unit, told Patch.

“People think that prostitution is kind of a victimless crime and it’s really not. There is a lot of other property and violent crimes that have come along with prostitution, either it be street level or inside.”

Residents have been dismayed as to why the police can’t do more. The police frustratingly respond that it’s a matter of resources and widespread responsibility. Periodic undercover stings send a message to the pimps, prostitutes and johns, but not at a persistent ratel.

“Of course the vice unit is responsible for illegal gambling, prostitution, and liquor throughout the entire city,” Kreher said. “We do have to hit other parts of the city, but we try to get here as much as we can to help out the residents of the midtown area and Zone 5.”

But good news with regards to Midtown’s longstanding and uphill battle against prostitution could be on the way. The City of Atlanta is working on establishing anti-prostitution areas that has been utilized with success in cities such as Seattle and Washington D.C.

A “Stay Out of Area of Prostitution” (SOAP) order would essentially ban convicted prostitutes from returning to specific areas in neighborhoods for any reason whatsoever. While it may not be the ultimate answer in solving the entire prostitution problem, police do view it as another tool to use in their fight against the crime.

“I think it will help if they know they can be re-arrested on sight just for being in that area,’’ Kreher said. "It is in Seattle; it works for them. What you do, it’s a moving target. So If we do the SOAP order for Cypress (Street) and three months from now, we see that it has kind of curtailed and we don’t see as much (prostitution) anymore, but all of a sudden it's picked up at Ponce (de Leon Ave.) and Monroe (Drive), we can go back to the judge and change the order to Ponce and Monroe and deal with it there.”

Some critics have raised concerns that a SOAP zone could lead to profiling, while others believe the police should have more pressing concerns, such has helping prevent violent and property crime. Still, police and city attorneys are in discussions now on how the order will be implemented and Kreher’s hope is that by summer the APD will have it to use.

“Once we get the (legal) questions answered, then we know how to proceed on drafting the legislation, changing the ordinance depending on whether we can include it as a punishment or have to include it as a voluntary pre-trial program,’’ he said. “Either case, there is a charge already in the books for contempt of court and it would be a contempt of court charge, a criminal charge if they violated that order, by being in the area, and they would go back to jail for a length of time.”

It would take a change of ordinance approved by the Atlanta City Council, but Kreher remains optimistic.

“I hope that the mayor will support us,’’ he said. “It is a tedious process, but I am hoping by June we will be on the right path.”

Do you think Midtown needs a “Stay Out of Area of Prostitution” order?

ronald April 04, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Short of citizen's arrest, is there anything we can do as business owners to help the police?
Tammy April 04, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I would not recommend a citizens arrest unless you want to get stabbed and/or shot by one of these hookers.
Butch Martin April 05, 2012 at 01:28 AM
"... mostly male and female prostitutes..." What other kinds are there?
Hunt Archbold (Editor) April 05, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Butch, pimps and johns are also at times arrested during these undercover stings, but the majority of the arrests last weekend were male and female prostitutes. Ronald, police officials have remarked that the ability to look at surveillance cameras from businesses would be of help with regards to certain different crimes in the area.
CHANEL April 05, 2012 at 09:56 PM
WOW! So what happens to the prostitutes that ACTUALLY live in the area? And what major city in the United States does NOT have prostitution in the downtown area? Prostitution, car thefts, graffiti, & drug dealers are usually a staple of downtown city life living. I always find it funny when people move into a neighborhood and try to change the neighborhood. Why did you move there is you did not like it? It was happening before you and will continue after you. You can NOT take the city and turn it into the suburbs!
Steve Gower April 05, 2012 at 11:21 PM
It is like moving into a house that needs some renovation. It has a potential to be a really great one, but you have got to fix up the roof, furnish it nicely, and get that old junk hauled off. I always tell folks that we've bought the house, landscaped it beautifully, and now we are taking it a step further by fixing up the neighborhood too...
Mike April 06, 2012 at 02:10 AM
CHANEL (seriously what kind of name is that?) I think you need to travel more... and realize city living does not equal the ghetto. Sorry you want Atlanta to remain a crime ridden ghetto - but the rest of us would like to see it improve! Prostitution, car thefts, graffiti and drug dealers are not STAPLES of downtown living - wow you are an idiot.
Chris H April 06, 2012 at 03:32 PM
@Chanel, you really think it's ok to have prostitutes and drug dealers in your neighborhood? The vast majority, I'm talking 99.9 % of people don't want to live with this kind of scum around and would do anything to get rid of it. Where did you grow up? Must have been a horrible place if you think this is OK.
Monty April 22, 2012 at 10:17 AM
Poor Chanel. How can I put this so that even you can understand: You're an idiot!!! What world do you live in where crime, regardless of type, is acceptable? Really...
sw April 23, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I know I was laughing out loud! You all need an editor or a fifth grader haha!
sw April 23, 2012 at 03:15 AM
There is nothing wrong with trying to reduce crime and improve the quality of life and safety of all residents.
sw April 23, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I agree 100%, Chris
sw April 23, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Chanel reminds me of people who say everyone's doing it; never mind it's ILLEGAL AND DANGEROUS! Eventually this type of activity spreads to "the suburbs" if you don't contain or try to control it. What an idiot.
CHANEL April 24, 2012 at 03:25 AM
If you have never heard of the name "Chanel" then what country are you from??
CHANEL April 24, 2012 at 03:33 AM
To EVERYONE else what I was saying is more similar to what "SW" said. However, yes I laugh at the arrogance and STUPIDITY of buying a property in a neighborhood and then complain about the neighborhood. It's like you bought a used car without test driving it or having a mechanic look at it first. Let me be VERY CLEAR, I DO NOT ENDORSE ANY TYPE OF CRIME! However in reference to this article and hateful comments. I would have thought that people who chose to live in the city were more liberal and instead of saying lets ban people and lock them up. Lets FIRST try and get them help. But clearly I see that I was wrong to think the residents of Midtown has a heart. Instead you want to turn Midtown in Buckhead.
sw April 24, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Chanel I just saw an episode of Judge Joe Brown today. Man 1 sued a neighbor man 2 because man 2 viscous dog jumped the fence and killed man 1 dog while man 1 was on public street walking like he had the right to do. The man 2 getting sued said "he shouldn't walk in this neighborhood knowing I have a dangerous dog". Judge Joe struck him down. Same type of thinking. The good of the masses outweighs the rights of a few (to be hookers or have viscous dogs or buy dope etc.) Besides, IT'S ILLEGAL!
CHANEL April 24, 2012 at 06:51 PM
OMG! I can not believe this conversation is still going on. I clearly stated I do NOT support ANY type of crimes. I was ONLY saying there are alternatives to immediately banning people from a neighborhood. Because clearly arresting them does NOT work. So why would banning them? Who's going to be standing around checking to see who belongs and who doesn't?
jimA thompson April 27, 2012 at 02:40 AM
What a limited view of reality and what a city is supposed to be....sorry "Chanel black folks don't want you dancing up and down their block either name ONE where you can get away with it ;)
CHANEL April 27, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Huhhh? Who said anything about dancing? And what does race have to do with this discussion?


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