The Atlanta City Council returns from recess Monday afternoon with District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall set to propose extending the conclusion of Midtown's no-cruising zone ordinance an additional three hours from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Hall said he is doing so to extend the reach local law enforcement officials have in their efforts to combat the persistent prostitution issue around residences and businesses in Midtown.
Midtown has been plagued with pockets of prostitution for decades. There are times when the Atlanta Police Vice Unit teams with APD Zone 5 officers to produce successful undercover prostitution stings, such as the one late last month that resulted in 35 arrests.
But the lack of resources makes such stings too infrequent, and an extended struggling economy has led to an “increase in activity” for Midtown prostitution according to Hall.
“We are trying to figure out a strategy to address the concerns that the citizens have had for quite a long time in Midtown,” Hall told Patch. "That’s the late-night activity that is primary related to prostitution, a little bit drugs, but really prostitution.”
The current no-cruising zone ordinance – which make it illegal to pass a control point more than twice within a two-hour period – extends from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. But as many Midtowners know, those early morning hours just before sunrise are very active for prostitution in the area.
Out-of-area “johns,” some working construction or day laborer jobs in the city, will come circling the neighborhoods looking for sex. By arresting the johns, the customer base for the prostitutes will be impacted and with the proper amount of sustained effort this could help push the prostitutes out of the area.
The City of Atlanta is also working on establishing anti-prostitution areas that has been utilized with success in other cities. 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. But critics have voiced the possible violation of civil liberties with such and have also raised concerns that a SOAP zone could lead to profiling.
But extending the no-cruise hours is “in our reach” according to the councilman. “I do think extending the no-cruise hours could be very, very beneficial,’’ Hall said. “All of the night they would not be allowed to cruise. We’re trying to keep our city safe day and night - 24 hours.”
If ultimately approved, the extended no-cruising hours will be what some Midtown residents have been calling on for sometime, as well as, provide another tool for law enforcement personnel to utilize in fighting prostitution in the area.
“We think this will help the police officers to keep a better containment of this persistent issue,’’ Hal said. “We will continue to work diligently this the neighborhood. The Midtown Ponce Security Alliance and the Midtown Neighbors’ Association have been adamant about seeing some kind of relief to this situation. Hopefully we can see some light of day on this issue someday soon.”
The definition of the current no-cruising ordinance SEC. 150-296 in Midtown:
(1) Cruise or cruising means to operate a motor vehicle, or to permit the operation of a motor vehicle under one's care, custody, or control, so as to pass the same traffic points within a no cruising zone more than twice within any two-hour period.
(2) No cruising zone means the area bounded by and includes the following streets or portions of streets and any other area as designated by city council:
· Cypress Street 5th Street to Peachtree Place // Cypress Street Peachtree Street to West Peachtree Street // Seventh Street West Peachtree Street to Peachtree Street
· Piedmont Park - 10th Street Monroe and Piedmont Avenue // Piedmont Avenue 10th to Monroe
· Midtown - 4th Street // 5th Street // 6th Street // Charles Allen Drive // Vedado Way // Lakeview Avenue // St. Charles Avenue // St. Charles Way // Ponce De Leon Court // Greenwood Avenue // Monroe Circle // Ponce De Leon Avenue // Durant Place // Argonne Avenue // Myrtle Street
(3) Traffic control point means any point established by the chief of police within a no cruising zone for the purpose of monitoring cruising.
a. A person commits an offense if, between 7:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. on any day of the week, he or she cruises in an area marked in accordance with this section as a no cruising zone. A citation will be issued under this section any time after the two passages of the vehicle by the traffic control point.
b. The department of public works shall mark a no cruising zone by conspicuously posting appropriate signs at each entrance to the zone.