Last Update: Thursday, April 17, 2014
|“John School” And More Police To Combat Valley Prostitution|
|Written by Alex Garcia|
|Thursday, 27 February 2014 04:41|
Efforts Will Concentrate On Van Nuys And Sun Valley Corridor
For years, Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys has been a well known location for prostitutes. It’s a serious problem for residents living nearby. Two of them spoke to the The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, saying they cannot enjoy a simple stroll in their neighborhood the same way others can where they live.
Around the clock they hear the chaos and fear the danger that brews just feet away from their front doors. “You see all these women at night, walking up and down and the men approaching them,” said one resident, who did not want to provide her name. “Sometimes you hear men chasing them. They [prostitutes] even go into the houses to hide.”
Describing the day-to-day situation, another resident said prostitution isn’t limited to evening hours, that prostitutes are walking the street during the daytime. “Sometimes when I’m taking my children to school, they’re still out there. It’s a bad image for the children,” she said, adding that the situation is so prevalent and threatening that even she has been propositioned by men in cars.
“They see a woman and they think everybody’s the same.” To battle this problem, Los Angeles City officials have announced a series of efforts that they hope will teach “Johns" — those who solicit prostitutes — with an expensive lesson and at the same time protect those who are victims of human sexual trafficking.
“These streets no longer belong to the pimps and ‘Johns,’ but to the families of the Sixth District,” proclaimed L.A. City Councilmember Nury Martinez, who stood with Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and LAPD representatives for a Feb. 24 press conference at the street median along Sepulveda Boulevard, in front of the “Le Rendezvous” Motel, in Van Nuys.
Martinez said a few months ago she went along with police on a prostitution sting and witnessed firsthand what residents of the area have complained about for years. On that night, police apprehended 20 women for charges of prostitution, many of them young girls, who she said are “brought in from other cities to work the streets for a few days and then they are moved again.”
The City of Los Angeles is now offering those juveniles assistance to escape that life.
Those juveniles arrested on suspicion of prostitution who agree to enter a program – called First Step –will be referred to therapy, substance abuse programs and services for victims of sexual assault, among other social services.
If they successfully complete a yearlong program, they will have a chance to clear their prostitution arrest, according to the L.A. District Attorney’s Office. Adult women arrested for prostitution can also take an 18-week course meant to give them “tools they need to turn their lives around,” Feuer said.
The routine in the past was to arrest the prostitutes but the “Johns” were often simply cited. But now “Johns” can have their cars impounded, which can cost up to $1,500 in fees, and must also attend “John School,” an 8-hour class where they are taught about the toll of human trafficking.
Feuer noted this type of school has been very effective in reducing recidivism. He said 1,500 men have gone through it since 2008, and only four have been cited for the same crime. Participants who successfully complete the program can have their offenses expunged from their record.
LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas said the department is deploying two patrol cars along Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys, as well as Lankershim Boulevard and San Fernando Road in Sun Valley — another area which is notorious for prostitution in the San Fernando Valley.
Agents who are part of Prostitution Enforcement Detail have received additional training specifically designed to help them deal with these cases. Villegas added that a social worker from the Mary Magdalene Project, a nonprofit organization which helps rescue prostitutes, will also accompany them in their operations to “try to get them out of that lifestyle.”
In the past, police would refer prostitutes to this organization, and only a small number took advantage of it, but they hope the direct approach will be more effective. Last year, 1,077 prostitution victims were arrested in San Fernando Valley. Sixty-three others were arrested for pimping, pandering or supervising prostitution.