With citizen complaints reaching "alarming" proportions, Santa Ana police have launched a crackdown on the growing number of Harbor Boulevard prostitutes and their customers, officials said Friday.
"They're disrupting our community and we intend to aggressively put a stop to it," said Police Capt. James L. Dittman. Not only have the solicitations of prostitutes themselves become a problem, innocent women are being propositioned by men seeking sex, he said.
Dittman said the would-be clients "are approaching any lady with a skirt or pants on. Your wife or mine could be going in or out of a store and get approached. The community is very upset."
To combat the problem, police officials said they have formed a special task force, similar to one that rid the city of the problem last year.
"We're trying to combine everything," sometimes arresting prostitutes and at other times going after their clients, vice Sgt. Bill Scheer said.
'Now It's Back'
During and after last summer's Olympic Games, when a task force put almost 100 women behind bars for an average of 37 days, "the problem went away, but now it's back," Dittman said.
The latest effort is led by Lts. Greg Cooper and Jim Davis. Cooper is in charge of the department's special investigations unit, while Davis is commander of Area A--a district that includes the 1 1/2-mile stretch of Harbor Boulevard north of McFadden Avenue where the problem is concentrated.
The number of prostitutes along the boulevard, depending on the night, ranges "anywhere from 10 up to 20 or 30," Scheer said.
Police plan a formal announcement of the crackdown Monday.
The task force includes both patrol and vice officers "working from an undercover perspective," Dittman said.
In conjunction with the task force that operated during the Olympics, a Prostitute Investigative Program, or PIP, was worked out with the Orange County district attorney's office and judges, Dittman said.
PIP included an agreement that if police did their homework and chronicled dates of observations, field interviews and photographs of individual women actively soliciting sex for money, prosecutors would ask for higher bail and tougher sentences.
The latest effort includes an agreement similar to PIP, Scheer said, while also using decoys--female officers positioned on the boulevard to attract roving clients.