Vice Squad
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The Berkeley Vote to "Decriminalize" Prostitution

Measure Q is on the ballot in Berkeley:
If the initiative is approved by a simple majority Nov. 2, it would direct the City Council to lobby in favor of repealing state law that makes prostitution a crime. The Berkeley City Council in July went on record against the measure.

If passed, the measure would redirect city tax dollars to social services to help prostitutes, and direct police to make arrests of prostitutes and their customers the "lowest priority."
The quote comes from this article in the Tri-Valley Herald. Yesterday there was a conference of speakers opposed to the measure, with supporters demonstrating outside. Neither the supporters nor the opponents think that prostitutes should be arrested, however. Sort of makes you wonder who does support arresting prostitutes. Surely someone does, given the frequency with which arrests occur.

Berkeley faces a real problem here, in that a de facto decriminalization in one city, a city surrounded by areas of criminalized prostitution, very likely will lead to prostitution tourism. And as that tourism in turn will likely have public nuisances attached to it, Berkeley residents who favor prostitution legality or broader decriminalization might nevertheless find themselves opposing Measure Q. Isolated neighborhoods or communities surrounded by a sea of prohibition might do better with regulated, legal brothel prostitution or a more structured (and zoned) decriminalization a' la the Netherlands. These alternatives can reduce the public nuisance while still eliminating the risk of jail for at least some prostitutes.

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