The West Ender
Thursday, July 31, 1997

Tom Zillich

p. 5.

Mary Frances Berry, of Prostitution Alternatives, Counselling and Education: "(Being an escort) is pretty much legal here and the city is giving out licenses. As long as it's not on the street they're happy."

Blind eye turned to prostitution indoors, says legal advocate

'Hidden' activity inside causes fewer problems for police

City and police authorities are turning a blind eye to prostitution activity indoors, says a legal advocate for Prostitution Alternatives, Counselling and Education (PACE).

"(Being an escort) is pretty much legal here and the city is giving out licenses for it," said PACE' Mary-Frances Berry.

"as long as it's not on the street they're happy with it, and they don't crack down on it. They're pimps."

Police spokesperson Const. Anne Drennan said the city's prostitution activity is moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, rather than from outdoors to indoors.

"I don't want to tar all escort agencies with the same brush," said Drennan, "but it doesn't tend to cause us police problems when it's hidden away like that. When it's on the street it becomes a community issue."

She said police will respond to complaints about suspected prostitution activities at the agencies.

"If it ever comes to light that there's other activity going on, we'll take a look at it and take action accordingly."

So far this year the city has issued 70 licenses to "social escorts" another 19 licenses to escort agencies. Licensed escorts are required by the city to work for an agency, whether it's their own business or not.

"The number (70 licensed escorts) seems unusually low," says Paul Teichroeb, chief license inspector. "I suggest there's a heck of a lot more out there who aren't licensed."

The cost of licensing is $104 for an escort, $771 for an agency.

Berry said PACE outreach workers are seeing a lot more street prostitutes head indoors from the streets.

"The girls are asking us, 'How do I get my own thing (indoors)?'" said Berry. "The problem is, a lot of the younger kids are going to work in the massage parlours, and we can't make contact with them there."

The PACE Society was formed in 1994 by former prostitutes who recognized the lack of services available to those in the sex trade, including streetwalkers, escorts, strippers, and massage parlor workers.

Right now PACE is doing research on exactly how many of Vancouver's sex-trade workers are inside.

"We want to see how many people are going inside from the street, because it's hard for us to track them once they're off the street," said Berry.

PACE distributes a bad-date list to prostitutes. Extremely graphic, a recent tip sheet includes a warning about a caucasian male who raped a street walker in a downtown hotel room before injecting her with a needle filled "with something." The same suspect inserted a knife into the vagina of another, handcuffed woman before raping her anally and robbing her of cash.

This kind of violent criminal act illustrates the tough, painful life led by some prostitutes.

"It's a hard and sad life," says Lady Cynthia, a former street prostitute. "I don't care what fancy name they call it -- an escort, whatever -- the bottom line is, you've got to take some pig home and do him. You're not in control, you're just a piece of meat. In that life, you get beaten down so badly."

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Created: August 8, 1997
Last modified: September 2, 1997

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