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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Police Chief Now Says First-Time Johns Won't Be Publicly Shamed

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 6:57 PM

click to enlarge Is this Plan B? - UMBERTO MARIN
  • Umberto Marin
  • Is this Plan B?
The problem with San Francisco is that people come here to do stuff they think they can't get away with at home. Prostitutes from South Carolina, for instance.

This was police chief George Gascon's take,  expressed at a community press conference this afternoon regarding the police department's nascent prostitution enforcement operation in the Russian Hill and Polk Street neighborhoods.

Two weeks into the operation, police officials said, they have arrested

36 female prostitutes and 15 johns, almost all of whom hail from outside the

city. (The police have not observed any male prostitutes in the area, Lieutenant Tom Cleary of Vice Crimes noted.) Two of the prostitutes were from Los Angeles, two from Las Vegas, one from San Diego, and one, oddly enough, from South Carolina. Others were from Berkeley, Oakland, Vallejo, and Sacramento. All but one of the johns were from outside San Francisco -- but none of them had made the trek from South Carolina. 

Gascon repeatedly blamed San Francisco's reputation for permissiveness,

and said the police crackdown would force prostitutes, pimps, and men

looking for sex to reevaluate the risk of what they're doing. As part

of the crackdown, Gascon said,  police may publicly post photographs of

johns -- an idea he bandied about earlier. In a clarification, Gascon today said this punishment would apply only to men or women who already have a prostitution charge on their

records.

"We want to leave those more embarrassing moments for people who do not

get it," Gascon said. "It will not be intended for first-time

offenders."

This

is a revision of Gascon's earlier plan for a gallery of johns, and one

that seems designed to minimize conflict with San Francisco's

much-imitated "John School," which is run by a local NGO. Last week, we wondered whether Gascon's shame tactics would interfere with the John School  -- aka First Offenders Prostitution Program -- a one-day seminar for first-time johns that was praised by a Department of Justice report for reducing recidivism. 

Since

only a small percentage of johns are repeat offenders -- only one of the

15 johns arrested in the police operation thus far has a prior offense, Cleary

said this afternoon. This portends that San Francisco's johns gallery

seems likely to be small, and not, as we speculated, tempting fodder for shame-game radio DJs.

A

police plan for towing johns' cars is still in the works, however, as

is a plan to bring both prostitutes and johns in front of community

courts.  

As the television cameras rolled this afternoon,

police officials, three representatives from neighborhood associations,

District Attorney Kamala Harris, and Supervisor David Chiu all lauded

the collaborative nature of the prostitution initiative.

It's not the first time

the police have cracked down on

prostitution in the Russian Hill and/or Polk Street neighborhoods. Two years

ago, a gunfight between two alleged pimps at the corner of Pine and

Larkin Streets sparked community outrage; 24 rounds were fired, and

bullets whizzed through apartment windows and into nearby cars, Northern

Station's Captain Ann Mannix noted at the conference. The police stepped

up enforcement for a while -- but, as Gascon noted, high levels of arrests

in a single area aren't sustainable.  

"We

certainly do not have enough vice cops to be working this area every

night for a long period of time," Gascon said. "We have a very large

world of crime and a very small universe of police resources."

Photo   |   Umberto Marin via Jaunted.com

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