Vice Squad
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Wichita Prostitution Policing

Wichita, Kansas seems very pleased that its police department's anti-prostitution page, launched in early March, is the most popular of its police webpages, and sixth most popular of the city's entire (500 pages plus) web presence. Naturally, the page posts photos of those arrested, though not yet convicted, of prostitution-related offenses, re-posting an arrestee's photo if there is a later conviction. And the police webpage lets us know just why their anti-prostitution work is so important:

Prostitution stings represent one aspect of the department’s comprehensive effort to rid Wichita of crimes that detract from our quality of life. A number of other criminal offenses coincide with prostitution, including assault, robbery and theft. Because many prostitutes and other persons associated with prostitution are drug users, illegal drug sales and usage are also linked with and perpetuated by prostitution. Therefore prostitution increases public health concerns, specifically the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, and other blood disorders.

Prostitution also exists, because those who solicit it, also known as “johns,” are willing to risk arrest. These “johns” are equally responsible for related criminal public safety and public health issues. They make it increasingly difficult for prostitutes to break the cycle of crime, violence and drug use.

Hmmm, they go to a lot of effort to try to link prostitution to other activities that they know their readers won't like, such as theft and illegal drug sales. Sort of sounds like they don't really see much wrong with prostitution per se, no? Perhaps they should think about legalizing prostitution, to break that link with assault, robbery, and theft.

Speaking of theft, are there photos available on the Wichita police website of people arrested for theft? In terms of protecting the good people of Wichita, doesn't it make more sense to alert them to the identity of accused thieves than of accused solicitors? But somehow I could not find photos of accused thieves. Could this be because the real purpose of the website is not to protect the public but rather to shame those who are arrested for prostitution-related offenses? Surely not, because that would be punitive, and people in the US cannot be punished until after a conviction, following due process of law.

These extraordinary acts of publicity for 'crimes' such as prostitution are employed precisely because of the lack of a link between participation in these vice activities and generalized criminality. The people caught up in anti-prostitution stings often really are regular folks, generally law-abiding people, whose prostitution-related behavior would not be a crime nor a matter of public concern in much of the world. Unlike inveterate thieves, these people have a stake in legitimate society, and therefore really will be shamed by having their photos posted on the web. Robbers tend to be less in thrall to the norms of mainstream culture, so there is little deterrence value in a publicity threat to them.

By the way, Wichita also has created "anti-prostitution emphasis areas," which are similar to drug-free zones: penalties for prostitution-related offenses are raised if the offense takes place in an emphasis area.

Labels: , ,

Powered by Blogger