Today marks the one year of the City's abandonment of the Prostitution Free Zone Ordinance. In a very short time we have seen our neighborhoods & streets taken over by organized crime that quickly moved in to take advantage of the situation. They have turned our streets into a turf war, they have greatly compromised the safety & livability of our fellow neighbors.They have taken over business' parking lots and our parks and school yards. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
We live here, we see and experience this crime now daily, we have been out all summer long talking with our neighbors of all of the adjacent neighborhoods - Montavilla, Park Rose, Mount Tabor, Madison South, South Tabor, Argay Terrace, etc - at farmers markets, fairs, neighborhood association meetings, PTA meetings, business assoc meetings, we have walked up and down 82nd Avenue and talked with the businesses and we have consistently heard so many stories of how this increased level of crime is "different" and more blatant then in years past, so much so that a single mother ended up moving to out of the area, because her safety was being compromised daily.
We have also seen more and more of these young women freely traded, johns now freely and aggressively harass women & young girls in the area - since if you are a lone women in this radius "you must be a prostitute", johns are masturbating in cars & exposing themselves, johns are erratically speeding and circling down our residential streets all hours of the day & night since they are in the zone, literally. Many rental properties are being taken over by criminals as "base camps" closer to their place of work the Avenue - 82nd selling & dealing drugs. There has been two retaliation style turf war fatalities on our streets. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
We are setting up meetings with the City Council Members & the current Mayor to discuss their new proposal and get the full details on it. We ask that the PFZ be reinstated in addition to the City's new plan. We want to educate all on the common arguments we hear against the PFZ and we ask our City leaders to delve into the facts, we did below. We also ask them to look to Seattle and see how they have taken the same PFZ ordinance and made it work, in addition to the treatments and outreach Seattle have created to go hand in hand with their efforts. This to us is key, that the City lifted the PFZ and promised "real solutions" but like Jeri Williams (former prostitute & City Neighborhood Activist now) touched upon in the Town Hall Summit - that currently there are NO services for these young girls & women. When did the City cut that funding in addition to abandoning the PFZ? So no PFZ and no services - no wonder why the crime has reached a critical level.
Common arguments against Portland’s Prostitution-Free Zone (PFZ) – are they valid?
Three arguments against the Prostitution Free Zone (PFZ) aspect of the City of Portland’s former Drug Free Zone/Prostitution Free Zone ordinance (“the ordinance”) are typically raised. These are that the PFZ aspect of the ordinance 1) violated individuals’ constitutional rights, 2) was applied in a racially disparate fashion and 3) displaced prostitution activity from one Portland neighborhood to another. Thoughtful analysis, information and data clearly refute each of these.
With respect to constitutional rights, calls by Montavilla in Action (MIA) to the City of Portland City Attorney’s Office and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office did not reveal the existence of any court constitutional challenges to the PFZ aspect of the ordinance. These calls did however reveal the most recent constitutional challenge to the Drug Free Zone aspect of the ordinance. The judicial opinion written in 2005 by Multnomah County Judge Michael Marcus on this challenge stated that individuals’ federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection were not violated by the ordinance. This opinion is available at http://www.ojd.state.or.us/mul/Opinions.html. In his opinion, Marcus also noted that “…the Ordinance has been repeatedly narrowed to respond to various court decisions…” and that the ordinance “…serves compelling safety and other legitimate interests of citizens within the affected zones…” Given that the public places its trust in judges such as Michal Marcus to fairly interpret law, MIA believes that Judge Marcus’s judicial opinion is sufficient to ensure individuals’ constitution rights were being protected. On this point, other parties’ conclusions that the ordinance violated constitutional rights are simply personal opinions.
Another common argument against the PFZ aspect of the ordinance is that the ordinance displaces prostitution from one Portland neighborhood to another. While this seems to make sense on its face, information about the state of residence of prostitutes arrested and questioned by Portland Police Bureau officers since the sunsetting of the ordinance in September 2007 shows the displacement argument to be false. The fact that a significantly higher proportion of these prostitutes are from out-of-state than was the case before the ordinance’s sunsetting is strong evidence that the ordinance did not displace prostitution from one Portland neighborhood to another, but rather that it decreased the level of prostitution activity in the Portland metropolitan area and the State of Oregon overall. Given the right of Portland residents to enjoy safe and secure, prostitution-free neighborhoods, MIA believes this was a valuable result of the ordinance.
A third argument commonly advanced against the PFZ aspect of the ordinance is that it was applied in a racially disparate fashion. In this line of thinking, racially disparate application would be observed if the ratio of persons issued exclusion orders to those arrested for engaging in prostitution is higher for one racial group than another. The most common racial group comparison is between Caucasian and non-Caucasian persons. As for the two arguments above, this argument is not supported by the facts. Arrest and exclusion data for 2006 obtained by MIA show that arrested Caucasian persons were issued exclusion orders at a rate of 76.2%, while arrested non-Caucasian persons were issued exclusion orders at a rate of 78.3%. A basic difference of proportions statistical test performed by MIA revealed that there is no statistically significant difference between these two proportions. In other words, the PFZ ordinance was not applied in a racially disparate way with respect to Caucasians versus non-Caucasians, for the data analyzed. As with the displacement argument, statements to the contrary are simply personal opinions that run counter to established fact. The raw data and statistical calculation noted above are available from MIA on request.
Thank you for all of your efforts in making our neighborhoods a SAFE place to live!