Blatant prostitution along 82nd Avenue has both local residents and Council Commissioner Randy Leonard hot and bothered. After the expiration of the prostitution-free zone along the Ave last September, Leonard has been meeting with police officials to figure out other methods of ending the sex work--in Leonard's view, the city should use a service coordination team approach that's used in Old Town. "They need to do something different than they've been doing," said Ty Kovatch, Leonard's chief-of-staff.
Meanwhile, neighbors are coming together to talk about the big issues behind the prostitution they see in their front yards. Dawn Rasmussen, president of Save Northeast 82nd, is organizing a town hall where - hopefully - people will discuss why prostitution exists in the area, not just how to police it. "What are the causes? Who are the victims?" says Rasmussen, "We want to have a humane approach to the problem... We're not going to be able to stop the world's oldest profession." At the summit, Leonard is slated to sit on a panel with a business association representative, police officers and several prostitution NGO directors.
When Rasmussen spoke about the event at the City Council's afternoon session last Wednesday, Leonard promised that by the time of the town hall, "We ought to not be coming to you with what we're going to do, but with what we've accomplished. You should see a difference very soon."
Rasmussen said she's seen a slight increase in police presence on 82nd since Leonard and the police officials met last week, but the number of prostitutes walking the avenue seems about the same. Rasmussen related the story of a neighborhood association board member on his way to a community block party a few nights ago accidentally made eye contact with a prostitute and was alarmed as she dashed toward his car. The town hall meeting is supposed to deal with these sort of wild and unexpected encounters-what should Madison South residents do if they find a prostitute on their lawn or dashing toward their car?
"I don't know what the right way to deal with these situations is," said Rasmussen. So while the police are coordinating major enforcement efforts, the neighbors are looking for small, personal solutions. Rasmussen said she's started turning on her porch light to try and keep away shady deals going down on her front lawn.
Save the date: Prostitution town hall at Vestal Elementary on NE 82nd, 6pm, Sept. 15th