Vice Squad
Friday, March 12, 2004
Prostitution in Berkeley

At the end of January, Vice Squad member Bernard noted efforts in Berkeley, California, to "decriminalize" prostitution. In reality, Berkeley cannot fully decriminalize, as prostitution violates state law, but a successful "decriminalization" would likely lead to diminished enforcement of anti-prostitution laws. The Oakland Tribune updated the story one week ago: the effort now is for the decriminalization question to appear on the ballot in November.

Prostitution enforcement brings on many of the usual ills of illicit markets, of course. Further, lots of otherwise law-abiding people find themselves publicly embarrassed and in legal trouble when arrested for prostitution-related crimes. The recent haul along these lines includes a New Jersey police chief, a Pennsylvania police officer (who allegedly was far from "otherwise law-abiding," actually), and a 76-year old California judge whose wife passed away in 1999. Some or all of the serious crimes alleged against the Pennsylvania police officer, involving agreements to drop prostitution charges in exchange for sex, also seem to stem from the criminalization of prostitution.

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