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Group takes flashlight walk against prostitution in Anaheim

Residents and supporters hope their presence sends the message that streetwalkers aren't welcome in a neighborhood that has seen a rise in the crime.

February 23, 2012|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • An Anaheim police officer handcuffs a woman suspected of prostitution as residents walk by in the background with flashlights. The woman was given an informational flier and released.
An Anaheim police officer handcuffs a woman suspected of prostitution… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

Flashlights in hand, the crowd of about 50 assembled off Beach Boulevard. It was 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and the residents were on a mission: to rid the area of prostitutes.

Along with the Anaheim Police Department, they hoped their presence among the apartments and motels that line this stretch of road would send the message that the streetwalkers weren't welcome.

Though prostitution has long been an issue in the area, the neighborhood has recently seen a rise in the crime. The dark carports and parking lots make the area an easy target, police say, and residents have been working with the department since August to address the problems.

The flashlight walk is meant to signify that the neighborhood won't tolerate this activity anymore, said Susie Schmidt, a senior crime prevention specialist with the Police Department.

"If you see a potential girl, let one of the officers know," Schmidt told the residents, some of whom brought their sons and daughters.

Phyllis Greenberg has lived in the area since 1986. She said she knows all the signs that a crime is imminent. "It's obvious they're not tourists walking around in shorts," she said as she headed down the sidewalk. "It makes me very mad because I own a home here."

Gloria Falcon, 51, said she went on the walk because she's sick of finding condoms on the streets.

"We're tired of the hookers; we're tired of the riffraff," she said.

Others expressed concern because of the children in the area.

Veda Salazar, an assistant at a nearby school, said the sixth-grade boys are sometimes propositioned by the prostitutes. "It bothers me that I see the kids and the women," she said.

About 4 p.m. Wednesday, Salazar's daughter, Ashley, 16, was driving with her parents when a woman wearing a short skirt slowly followed a car into a motel parking lot.

Ashley said she couldn't believe that someone would go that far for sex. "It was so surreal," she said.

The police were also handing out fliers to motel managers. At the Sahara Motel, Investigator Jesse Romero slid a flier under the glass partition. "If you look out your window, you'll see your neighbors in the area," he told the attendant.

Romero said he had never seen such a crowd at a flashlight walk before.

"People here are fed up," he said.

Some of those on the walk don't live in the area but wanted to show support for the residents.

Steve Jankovich, 38, of Buena Park drives his daughter to tap class in the neighborhood each Friday.

"I see the girls walking the street, and some of them make eye contact with me," he said.

But his daughter has yet to notice.

"I try to keep her in good conversation," he said. "She's only 8."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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