Last September, Portland Mayor Tom Potter allowed the city’s prostitution free zone law to expire, saying there were more effective ways to impede the world’s oldest profession. Since then, Portlanders living in the Montavilla neighborhood, site of a former prostitution free zone, say they’ve seen an increase in activity in the local sex industry. According to the mayor’s office, vice calls are up 300 percent since the law was allowed to sunset.
Montavilla residents say they want the prostitution free zone to be reinstated, but Mayor Potter has some other ideas. Potter announced Thursday he will put a half a million dollars towards rehabilitation and counseling programs to help women arrested for prostitution get out of the industry altogether. There will also be more police officers assigned to a special squad to target repeat offenders. Neighborhood activists say they’ll continue their own foot patrol to record and report suspicious activity in the area, something they started doing last summer with the support of the local police. Prostitution is an issue statewide, but conversations with police throughout the state revealed few communities see the street presence of sex workers that Portland does.
Is this an issue in your community? What do you see as the best approach to curb prostitution?
- Brian Wong: Spokesman for the Montavilla Action Group
- Mike Crebs: Commander of the Portland Police Bureau’s east precinct