Repeal of city ordinance leads to rise in prostitution; neighbors protesting

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on August 14, 2012 at 9:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 15 at 10:26 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Tuesday night prostitutes are hanging out behind the homes of some St. Louis residents, all because of a change to a city ordinance.   

After more than a dozen prostitutes were set free from jail, one man told News 4 - the problem is so bad he has to watch for prostitutes before he backs out of his garage.

Tonight News 4 uncovered what’s happening now that the ordinance police used almost solely to arrest prostitutes has been deemed unconstitutional.

News 4’s Maggie Crane talked at length to a prostitute off camera Tuesday who says she walks these streets morning, noon and night.

She’s been arrested under this now-defunct ordinance six times, recently spending 30 days in jail.

But now, all city charges against her and other prostitutes have been dropped.

“Street demonstrating was definitely a tool that we used against the prostitutes, because obviously if they’re on a sidewalk or in the street waving down potential johns, they’re inhibiting traffic,” said St. Louis Police Captain Dan Howard.

But police lost that tool when the courts ruled that the “demonstrating” ordinance infringed on free speech.

They can still charge a prostitute for soliciting, but it’s a charge that’s a lot harder to prove.

South Grand Boulevard is a known hot spot for prostitutes. Resident Ed Blackwell says he caught a prostitute working right behind his house.

“I worked a late shift, came home about 12:30 and there was a car parked in front of my garage,”Blackwell said. “I turned my high beams on and flashed them, you know, basically to see if anybody was in there and the lights turned on and the car drove off.”

Captain Howard understands the problems, and says he knows what it’s doing to the neighborhood.

“It’s horrible. Nobody wants to look out their front door and see a prostitute,” he said. “ It just brings down the neighborhood, doesn’t look good, makes houses hard to sell.”

"What's been most frustrating is that they approach my son, who is 17, when he's on his way to school or on his way home from school, and the same with my husband - when he leaves for work and when he's coming home from work,"  resident Janice Taylor said.  "So that's a very personal experience that we just can't seem to get fixed."

The Board of Aldermen will have to pass a new ordinance to help police, but they don't go back to work until after Labor Day.  We'll certainly follow up then.

But until then, police are adding undercover patrols in hopes of cracking down on street walking.

 

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