July 18, 1995

by Staff Reporters


Big Bad Johns

Clients of Vancouver prostitutes may be forced to clean up the messes left behind

Vancouver police have launched an undercover operation against prostitution in residential areas like Mount Pleasant.

Hookers' customers to get down and dirty

Johns nabbed trying to buy sex in Vancouver could find their noses rubbed in the messes they make.

"One of the things we try to get across is the impact these activities have on these neighborhoods," said Vancouver Crown counsel Robert Mitchinson.

"Trying to demonstrate firsthand by having (johns) go down back alleys, picking up needles and condoms, may make them realize the effect they're having on these neighborhoods," he said.

Among those who could be the first to be put to work are some of the 150 men caught in this summer's crackdown on johns.

The operation in the Mount Pleasant area is being spearheaded by two Vancouver officers who have traded their uniforms for stiletto heels and tight skirts.

Posing as ladies of the night, constables Kathy Szoboticsanec and Pam Dawes are part of an undercover operation that is to last until September.

In an interview with the media during an operation, Szoboticsanec said of the men she was catching: "Some have nice vehicles, baby seats in back."

Her partner said she's nabbed "all types of guys, from old pensioners to really young kids, some sober, some drunk, some well-dressed to some really scummy guys."

Const. Anne Drennan, spokeswoman for Vancouver police and herself a former decoy, said: "If these guys are going to go to a residential neighborhood, chances are it will be a policewoman."

She said police are also looking at putting out the names of johns on the Internet computer network.

Mitchinson said the justice system is working with police to figure out how best to deter johns from reoffending.

He said lawyers hear more public feedback on the issue of prostitution than on nearly any other problem.

Mitchinson said most offenders are first-timers.

When a man is charged with communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services, it may take four to five weeks for him to make a first appearance in court.

From that point, the john will find himself in a legal web that could stretch out for months, depending on whether he decides to plead guilty or go to trial.

Getting fined is the norm.

Mount Pleasant residents tried in vain last year to move hookers out of their community. Now they're watching the courts.

"The complaint has been that the court system has not sent out a firm-enough message," said resident Anthony Norfolk.

Streetwalkers and Johns

Police and street-youth organizations estimate there are up to 2,000 hookers active in the Greater Vancouver area.

They earn anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 a week.

So far this summer, the Vancouver police department's anti-prostitution task force has nabbed 150 johns in the Mount Pleasant area.

According to police experts, the average john is middle-aged, often a family man who is looking for young girls because he believes they're "fresher". These men are less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases.

Many of the men are quick to blame others for their sexual appetite for prostitutes.

They will often blame their wives, their loneliness and even the hookers walking the street for tempting them.

Prostitutes are prime targets for violence. Over the past 12 years, more than 40 of them have been killed in B.C.

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Created: January 15, 1996
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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