Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Ad plan: Shame is the aim

Proposal seeks to help stem prostitution

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — City Council is considering not only publishing the photos of convicted prostitutes and their customers, but making them pay the cost.

        Council members, who gave the ordinance a first reading three weeks ago, need to hold two more readings before it can be adopted. It may hold the second reading this week, and the proposal could become law in May.

        The ordinance would allow a municipal court judge to assess prostitutes and their customers a minimum mandatory fine of $75 each, on top of criminal penalties. The money will go into a fund to help pay for the publication of the pictures in newspapers, said law director Hillary Miller.

        Two years ago, city council authorized the city manager to publish names and photos of people convicted of prostitution or prostitution-related charges .

        No such pictures have been published yet because of disagreements over which city department would pick up the tab. The photos would be published only after a person has been convicted and has exhausted legal appeals.

        Prostitution and soliciting prostitution are first-degree misdemeanor crimes that carry maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

        Hamilton's photo ordinance is modeled after a law in Kansas City, Mo., where city officials air the pictures of convicted prostitutes and their patrons on the city government channel.

        Kansas City Police Sgt. Jeff Emery said he thinks putting the pictures on TV has deterred prostitution, although police didn't have a statistical analysis of prostitution arrests.

        The Hamilton ordinance being considered, as well as the one passed two years ago, remains controversial among council members.

        Councilwoman Sharon Hughes said she not only objects to the fine, but she opposes publishing the names and pictures of people convicted on prostitution and related offenses. She said the published pictures will only further embarrass family members.

        “I don't think it's going to be an effective tool for curbing prostitution in Hamilton,” Mrs. Hughes said. “It's only going to further publicize the negative that we do have.”

Legal challenges
        Mrs. Hughes said she would prefer council repeal the ordinance on publishing the photos. Instead, she wants to see better prosecution and enforcement of the existing obscenity and sex laws.

        Cincinnati defense attorney Kenneth Lawson said he would challenge the legality of both ordinances if any of his clients are ever involved.

        “I think it's excessive punishment when they get punished in court, then get punished in the paper, and then have to pay for their picture being put in the paper. It's ridiculous,” said Mr. Lawson. He said he doesn't think the ordinances would deter prostitution. “How many punishments do you have to pay for one crime?”

        But Councilman George McNally said publishing pictures of the prostitutes and their clients is likely to deter the trade, even though he acknowledged that there's no proof that it would.

        “It's cutting edge. There are no statistics available. This is an experimental ordinance,” said Mr. McNally, a former Hamilton police chief. “We hope it will send our ladies of the night to other cities. If it prevents one case of AIDS for some unexpecting spouse, it will have paid for itself over and over.”

        The fine and published photos are a way of focusing attention on the problem, he said. “It will be talked about in every coffee shop, every restaurant, every factory,” Mr. McNally said.

        Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis said the two ordinances could have mixed results.

        “Publishing (customers') photographs is an effective deterrent to the crime of prostitution,” he said. “However, publishing photographs of prostitutes will not necessarily deter them from their pursuit.”

        Hamilton Councilman Dick Holzberger, a former Butler County sheriff, said he initiated the idea to publish the photos. He contends that prostitution leads to other crimes such as drugs, strong-arm and armed robbery and other thefts.

        Hamilton Officer Dave Crawford said prostitution hasn't been on the rise in the city, and probably has declined.

        There were 33 charges for solicitation in both 1998 and 1999.

        Council is expected to have the second reading of the $75 ordinance at its meeting on Wednesday. It will begin at 7 p.m. at the city building, 20 High St.


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