Friday, January 23, 1998

Frances Bula

p. B1

Council hears threats of war on prostitution

Vancouver city councillors are scrambling once again to find solutions to prostitution, after being faced with a phalanx of businesses and residents in the city's northeast corner, threatening to go to war on the streets to protect their embattled neighbourhoods.

Ideas put forward by the councillors, at the end of a tense four-hour meeting Thursday, included everything from large signs posted at neighbourhood borders to discourage johns from entering, to community-service sentences for johns, to warning letters sent to the homes of anyone who even stops to talk to prostitutes.

But councillors repeatedly cautioned the delegates who came to the meeting that they have very little power to do anything about prostitution.

"What do you want us to do? W'ere restricted by the law," said Mayor Philip Owen.

And some expressed concnern about the whiffs of vigilante-style activism that residents seemed to be endorsing.

p. B5.

Businesses battle prostitution

The residents who live along Hastings to the east of Chinatown have been battling prostitution there for several years, as it was driven out of Strathcona and Mount Pleasant into their area.

Now, businessesbeing affected by it, as well, have joined their campaign.

Jim Close, a manager at an environmental testing laboratory on Triumph Street, was one of the several business people who testified to the affect prostitution is having on the area.

The lab has been broken into 30 times since they moved to the building in 1990, with computers and printers stolen. Their staff, which consists mainly of young university graduates, have to be escorted out to their cars and the women won't work past 5 p.m. in the winter. Those cycling to work frequently court accidents as they have to swing out into traffic to get around cars and trucks double-parked because the drivers are talking to prostitutes.

And Close, like others who spoke, starts his day by cleaning condoms and needles off the property.

"Our neighbourhood is devastated. We need your help now, not later."

They asked for more police pressence and for the city to do something.

But councillors and police had a long list of reasons why there was little they could do.

Inspector Gary Greer said it has become even more difficult for police to obtain convictions for customers since recent court judgments have accepted defence arguments that men were just curious -- not really negotiating to buy sex -- in sting operations involving undercover police.

Councillors and police also cited problems with federal law, judges who routinely give unconditional discharges to men convicted in prostitution cases, a lack of resources, and a lack of contol over how police are deployed in the city.

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Created: March 21, 1998
Last modified: March 21, 1998

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