Hello all -
Before we settle down for the holiday & give thanks tomorrow.
2 members of our group had scheduled to present our petition to reinstate the PFZ to the City Council today. All members of the City Council were in attendance except for Randy Leonard who was out sick.
We each were given 3 minutes to speak - which is not a lot of time considering all of the neighborhood stories & concerns we wanted to vocalize. We want to formally present the petition & the 1500 signatures we gathered from all of you. THANK YOU.
Attached below is Liz's speech:
Good Morning –
My family & I live in Mount Tabor. In late spring of this year we started noticing more & more cars with prostitutes & johns parked in our neighborhood and engaging in the crime at all hours of the day & night. We all had to be on constant alert & chase away the numerous cars that we presumed stopped on our residential streets as they were originally heading towards Mt. Tabor Park. We also started seeing more & more discarded condoms on the streets where we walked, in our parks & in our school yards.
When we drove along 82nd Avenue, we were both shocked & saddened to see this marked increase of these young women being freely & blatantly traded NOW on OUR streets, in OUR City. These groups of women were now all up & down the Avenue at any time, of the day or night. It was difficult to just drive by them, it was as if the whole city was now enabling the crime to thrive and we turned a blind eye to their daily suffering.
So we got active AND we got educated. What happened? What caused this new critical level of crime in our communities?
What was apparent to all – was that at the root of this increased escalation in crime was the City’s abandonment of the Prostitution Free Zone (PFZ) on September 30, 2007. We researched the history & timeline of the PFZ (please see pg 2 of the handout) and we were shocked at how the PFZ was lumped with the Drug Free Zone & that the City’s commissioned research for abandoning both ordinances – ONLY researched the Drug Free Zone. In the entire 18 page research report – the word “prostitution” was not mentioned once. Yet both ordinances were allowed to sunset together.
This to us was priority reason #1 as to why the PFZ should be reinstated based on this now obvious & blatant example of cause & effect exploding right before our eyes in our neighborhoods.
As we formed a greater outreach across other neighborhood associations, talking with neighbors, police, researching articles, talking to the local businesses - we heard more & more concerns about the safety & livability of our fellow neighbors. We heard hundreds of examples of stories (pg 3 of the handout) of our fellow neighbors and how their safety was now being compromised - johns now freely harassed neighborhood women & young girls in the area - since if you are a lone women in this radius "you must be a prostitute" as you wait for a bus or walk to the store or school, johns are now erratically speeding and circling down our residential streets all hours of the day & night since they are in the zone, literally and are circling like sharks. Neighborhood men & business owners are now being blatantly propositioned as they walk in the area, or stop for gas or even at a stoplight. Many rental properties are now being taken over by criminals as "base camps" closer to their place of work the Avenue – so a quicker commute for both selling & dealing drugs in addition to prostitution. There have been two retaliation style turf war FATALITIES on our streets. It is well documented that now both pimps & prostitutes have moved to Portland from out of state, to take advantage of our weak laws & light punishment.
These criminals are now testing our neighborhoods AND our City, to see how much we will tolerate.
Look at how proactive they were, they saw the opportunity with the PFZ now being absent and made OUR neighborhood streets THEIR NEW business district. We need to be even more proactive & NOT reactive like the City was in the late summer & early fall months of this year.
With the tightening budgets for 2009, we have to be smarter & more strategic about our efforts in truly addressing this crime. In our rebuttal back to the Mayor’s proposal in early Sept. we questioned if the budget is slated for the increased missions & the 2 detailed cars AND if they are planned for next year as well AND to what level? We also stressed that this idea of “Community policing” & “Court watch” should truly NOT be one of the 4 main pillars to Mayor’s plan. The working class families of the Montavilla Community Foot Patrol were patrolling this summer & early fall seven nights a week due to necessity – they do not want the same urgent need to still be there, come this Spring time.
We do not have the “Not In My Backyard” mentality, we do not want any other community to be overtaken by this crime. It breaks our hearts that now our neighborhood women & young girls do not feel safe being approached & harassed by johns & pimps. Those same pimps that are making these other young girls & women walk our neighborhood streets.We do not want this tolerated in ANY neighborhood.
We also strongly question why the City is not focused on “THE DEMAND” – THE JOHNS (please see page 5 of the handout for research done by activist Melissa Farley on why this is key). This SHOULD be 1 of the 4 pillars to the Mayor’s proposal. There needs to be a consistent & targeted effort focused on them. This also needs to be communicated by the City that this crime will not be tolerated & if you are arrested that numerous steps will be taken again you. Why not activate proven effective tactics that over 280 US cities employ when dealing with johns that have been proven to work - list them on a website or in the paper, make them do work crew – literally have them clean up 82nd Avenue. There are many inexpensive but very effective punishments the City can immediately launch & communicate that will not drain the City’s budget.
We hope that the PFZ can be reinstated and that the City of Portland can take key cues & learnings from Seattle to perhaps rewrite & model it after. The PFZ was one vital tool that helped stop the crime from growing major roots & taking over neighborhoods. We ask that it be added to the City’s integrated plan, so that it can work in conjunction with all of the other efforts. Perhaps the Oversight committee that is being proposed next month to City Council, can initially and finally look at the history of the PFZ and do some well needed research on it?
The goal of this zone is the next best thing to the rehabilitation of the offender & that is, the rehabilitation of the area & the community. THANK YOU.