I was disappointed in your recent article, "Crackdown in West Hollywood." Unfortunately, the article painted an incomplete picture of the efforts to stop prostitution in our community. The article failed to mention the aggressive efforts that have been under way over the last year to eradicate this problem in West Hollywood. Prostitution is not unique to our city, as your article infers. It is a regional problem in which the resources needed to fight street prostitution are limited and insufficient.
Over the last year, city officials have launched an intense effort to rid West Hollywood of prostitution and the related crimes that often follow. Some of the initiatives that have been under way include:
Targeted prostitution stings on Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. Since January, 1993, more than 500 prostitutes have been arrested and prosecuted.
Increasing foot and bike patrols in the area to discourage loitering.
Working with the judges at the Beverly Hills court to ensure that repeat offenders received maximum jail sentences.
Funding local social service agencies to help youths get off the street.
Strengthening the city's Neighborhood Watch programs and providing residents with the tools to effect change in their neighborhoods.
Enhancing pedestrian-oriented street lighting and increasing lighting intensity in the residential neighborhoods.
Working with local businesses to educate them about commercial crime prevention programs.
Establishing the city's Prostitution Task Force.
One of the most promising initiatives under way is the recently established Prostitution Task Force. This interdisciplinary group, which includes representatives from the city, Sheriff's Department, LAPD, Los Angeles County district attorney's office, residents and local businesses, will work together to identify and implement multifaceted and effective solutions for getting prostitutes off the streets.
Improving the quality of life for the residents throughout West Hollywood is the city's highest priority. Many West Hollywood residents and business owners feel that prostitution has had a negative effect in their neighborhoods. City officials and the Sheriff's Department are committed to continue our initiatives against prostitution. To be successful, we need the help and support of everyone who works, lives and visits West Hollywood.
Mayor, West Hollywood
As was reported in the article, "Red-Blight District," illegal street prostitution degrades the east end of West Hollywood. Few would doubt the problems of illegal prostitution.
Still, if one is open-minded and really studies the issue, there are many good reasons to make prostitution legal in a controlled and regulated fashion. If legalized and restricted to regulated and taxed houses of prostitution in specific commercial areas, it would be a benefit to tourism, raise revenues and reduce crime. It would promote safe sex through prostitution's regulation, and would allow for health maintenance by giving us the ability to write regulations demanding safe sex practices and medical checkups.
Street prostitution has been a problem on the streets of West Hollywood for many decades, long before West Hollywood was a city. It will not go away with law enforcement if it has not by now disappeared. Like any prohibition, it only encourages undesirable criminals to skirt the laws. There are, conversely, many good reasons to legalize prostitution now in a regulated and organized way.
MICHAEL L. STEMPEL
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