LA mulls ‘john let­ters’ to fight pros­ti­tu­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LOS AN­GE­LES: A Los An­ge­les City Hall pro­posal to send “john let­ters” to the own­ers of cars seen in ar­eas known for pros­ti­tu­tion has drawn crit­i­cism from a Cal­i­for­nia civil lib­er­ties group. The City Coun­cil voted Wed­nes­day to have the city at­tor­ney’s of­fice an­a­lyze the pro­posal to use li­cense num­bers to de­ter­mine who owns the ve­hi­cles. The let­ters would be writ­ten to dis­cour­age those who were so­lic­it­ing pros­ti­tutes from re­turn­ing to the area while pos­ing no harm to those who were there for le­git­i­mate rea­sons, Coun­cil­woman Nury Martinez said. “If you aren’t so­lic­it­ing, you have no rea­son to worry about find­ing one of th­ese let­ters in your mail­box,” she said.

The col­lec­tion of li­cense plate data is op­posed by the non­profit Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, the Los An­ge­les Daily News re­ported. The San Francisco-based foun­da­tion has an on­go­ing law­suit against the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment and the Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment over the is­sue. “What hap­pens if you have le­git­i­mate rea­son to be in a neigh­bor­hood?” asked Dave Mass, an in­ves­tiga­tive re­searcher with foun­da­tion.

Some other cities have used “john let­ters” to com­bat pros­ti­tu­tion. In some com­mu­ni­ties, res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to jot down the li­cense num­bers of cars they see en­gag­ing in sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity and pro­vide it to po­lice. The “john let­ters” are typ­i­cally writ­ten in a cor­dial tone and make it clear that po­lice do not as­sume the owner of the ve­hi­cle was the per­son driv­ing it. “It is a com­mon myth that pros­ti­tu­tion is a ‘vic­tim­less crime’ or that it is ‘an act be­tween two con­sent­ing adults,’” one sam­ple let­ter used by a po­lice agency in Florida states. “Pros­ti­tu­tion is a crime which is linked to drugs (use and sale), acts of violence to­ward pros­ti­tutes and their cus­tomers, and in the worst case, hu­man traf­fick­ing in ju­ve­niles for the sex trade.”

The let­ters also warn about po­ten­tial ex­po­sure to sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted diseases. Some busi­ness own­ers praised the pro­posal in Los An­ge­les. “Let’s say that let­ter comes in and your wife, your girl­friend or mother gets it,” said Cindy Sower, a Sun Val­ley busi­ness owner who ap­plauded the pro­posal. “Maybe it’s a wake-up call.” — AP

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