2007-10-02

Policing by Innuendo – New Ottawa Police Program

The Ottawa Citizen reports on a new program to deter customers of prostitutes. It seems there are times when the police do not have enough evidence to lay charges but believe men are soliciting prostitutes. In this new program the police will now send letters to the homes of these men. But, of course, because they have no evidence, they will not allege the men actually committed crimes but just tell them they should not be in areas “frequented by prostitutes”.

The police stated to the Citizen:

“Letters will be sent to men who are identified while picking up a prostitute or found in the company of a prostitute. They will also be sent to those who police identify as continually stopping and talking to prostitutes or continually driving around neighbourhoods prostitutes are known to frequent, said Supt. Larochelle.”

But since the police have no proof the men have broken any laws, the letters are worded very carefully. We would not want to actually accuse someone of something we have no evidence of, when innuendo will get the job done. As stated to the Citizen:

“Anyone caught trawling Ottawa's streets for prostitutes will soon have a letter sent to their home by police telling them to stay out of those neighbourhoods while also warning of the dangers of the sex trade. Starting next week, Ottawa police will start sending out "community safety" letters that include the time, date and location the recipient was observed by officers in areas known to be frequented by prostitutes. In addition to detailing the potential health hazards associated with street prostitution, such as HIV and hepatitis, the letter explains the harm it causes to the community and asks the recipient to "do your part" by "refraining from bringing your vehicle into this area unnecessarily."

And what about those cases where the police actually have evidence. As stated to the Citizen:

“Supt. Larochelle said the letters will not be sent to the homes of men who are criminally charged with solicitation or who are caught in a police sting and qualify for the pre-charge diversion program known as John school. "People are accountable for their actions. This letter will hold them accountable," he said.”

The police role is to enforce the law and charge people when they have evidence of wrongdoing. It is not their place to find creative ways to punish people they think are doing bad things, where there is no evidence any laws are being broken.

Street prostitution is clearly a problem in neighbourhoods. Of course the prostitutes face much greater risks, including death, in this situation than the residents. Everyone would be better off if prostitutes were not forced onto the streets and forced to work for pimps. But prostitution is not going to go away. It is rather ironic that in todays sex-obsessed society you can use sex to sell everything but you cannot sell sex.

The other irony, of course, is that it is only the financial transaction that is illegal, and actually only “communicating for the purpose of” the financial transaction that is illegal. If these women were “giving it away” there would be nothing illegal but the “problem” would probably be even worse from the neighbourhood perspective.

What is clear is that many women are in the sex trade unwillingly because of economic necessity or abusive relationships. These are the real victims. The solutions are not criminal or quasi-criminal sanctions but economic and social reforms. Women need to be economically independent. Charging abusive partners or pimps with crimes does little good if women feel the necessity to return to those relationships. Charging customers or prostitutes does little good if women feel the economic necessity to return to the sex trade.

The prostitution “problem” will only be solved when no woman turns to prostitution out of necessity.

1 comment:

deBeauxOs said...

When refering to the Vanier resident, First Nations woman and mother that was stabbed to death and left in Gatineau Park last year, the media, including the CBC, are quick to qualify her as a 'prostitute'. But I've rarely seen the MSM refer to Doctor/Senator Wilbur Keon in any news coverage as 'a convicted John' ....