Look again at prostitution-free zones by The Editorial Board Thursday August 21, 2008, 5:13 PM Portland had an innovative idea in 1992, when it launched drug-free zones. Three years later, the city added prostitution-free zones. But last year, the Portland City Council eliminated the zones after a report showed police were excluding African Americans more often than people of other races, at least for drug offenses. Actually, there was no such finding for the prostitution-free zones. Yet they were eliminated, too. Since then, prostitution has proliferated on 82nd Avenue. A fatal stabbing last week shows that this is far from a victimless crime. The city should consider re-establishing a prostitution-free zone on 82nd.
Oregonian Friday August 22, 2008 Look again at prostitution-free zones The Portland City Council can't put an end to this crime, but it can give police an invaluable way to counteract it Sixteen years ago, when Mayor Tom Potter was police chief, the city of Portland embraced an innovation in community policing known as the exclusionary zone. Originally adopted downtown, and later expanded to other parts of Portland, including 82nd Avenue, the use of exclusionary zones gave police the ability to crack down instantly on blatant drug dealing and, eventually, on prostitution. Instead of arresting people for these offenses, police cited them, sent them on their way and excluded them from the area for 90 days. Through the years, as the technique was imitated by other cities, Portland added numerous safeguards. Those excluded could challenge it via an appeals process. They could also re-enter the neighborhood for a long list of reasons, including the need to work, keep a doctor's appointments or obtain other services. By the time that the city put an end to exclusionary zones last year, the approach had been encumbered by so many exceptions that police weren't really excluding people; they were restricting people. Nevertheless, the approach gave police a quick and invaluable way to disperse hot spots of criminal activity, and make life bearable for the people who have to live next door to it.
Civil libertarians did not like exclusionary zones, and we voiced objections, too. But the courts generally upheld the zones, with a variety of caveats. What finally did the zones in was evidence that African Americans were disproportionately excluded for drug dealing. That led the council to end the practice last year. Notably, there was no such finding for the prostitution-free zones; most of the people who wound up being cited and restricted for engaging in prostitution were white. Nevertheless, all the zones were disbanded last fall. And since then, prostitution has exploded along 82nd Avenue. Wherever there are prostitutes and pimps, quarrels -- and violence -- are not far behind. Just last week, a man was fatally stabbed in the area. The woman held in connection with his death had been arrested previously on prostitution-related charges, and said she'd stabbed him because he was trying to get her to work for him as a streetwalker. But violence isn't the only concern. In a Little League diamond in the Montavilla neighborhood, parents must clean up condoms and needles before games. Along 82nd, some prostitutes don't bother getting a room; they engage in sex in cars. A debate has begun about the best ways to address the problem, including intensifying enforcement, targeting repeat offenders and connecting prostitutes to a variety of services -- good ideas all. But, in addition to these, the city ought to reconsider the approach it used successfully for so many years -- a prostitution-free zone on 82nd. It didn't rid the city of the world's oldest profession. It didn't address, or pretend to address, the root causes of the problem. It did, however, alleviate the distress, blight and violence that goes, hand in hand, with the crime. --The Editorial Board;email@example.com