NYPD Can’t Quite Crack Prostitution Problem

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Prostitutes on the street looking for customers. Photo: Norman Lono/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)/Firstview

One common signifier of a grittier New York City, as seen in the old Times Square, is a cluster of streetwalkers — prostitutes openly advertising themselves to any and all passersby. While tourists with bags from the M&M store might be more prevalent today, the sex trade persists on quieter New York City streets, with prostitution-related arrests holding steady at around 4,200 annually for the last five years, even as other crime has dropped. But the New York Times reports today that the NYPD is trying a new tactic to stamp out the sex trade: Arresting the customers.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has met with both advocates and prostitutes, searching "for a fairer approach to prostitution." Last month, the department targeted the johns:

Using decoys armed with remote audio systems and aided by “arrest teams” and undercover officers, the Police Department, over three days last month, made 195 arrests and seized 55 vehicles in what police officials called Operation Losing Proposition.

An analysis of the arrest data provided by the police shows that the crackdown spanned all five boroughs, on dozens of street corners, in 28 precincts.

Ten prostitutes were also included in those arrest numbers, "which sends a mixed message," according to some advocates. Others say that arresting clients makes the women's job more dangerous. "It is not a sound policy," said the director of a nonprofit that focuses on prostitutes. "I don’t think we'll see a big drop in prostitution because of these arrests." More M&M stores in more boroughs might be our only option.