Our view: Prostitution enforcement a complex issue

— Like many community members, we questioned the effectiveness of the Syracuse Police Department's six-month undercover sting on Internet prostitution, ("Our View," June 16, Vol.1 Issue 48).

We in no way agree with some assertions that prostitution is a victimless crime, and on page 6, Lt. John Corbett spells out all of the types of crimes that often go along with a sex-for-money (or drug) interaction, including assault and murder.

But we did wonder how far-reaching the impact of such an in-depth investigation could go. Specifically, whether the dozens of women arrested for prostitution would be funneled into a program to help them leave the hooking lifestyle behind. We're hopeful to see that such programs do exist in many other cities, as well as creative and humiliating punishments for johns, including performing community service in the neighborhoods they were picked up looking for prostitutes.

Read our feature story about a local group with the goal of helping prostitutes turn their lives around.

We were also encouraged by the presence of a small but dedicated group of people hoping to establish a live-in environment for women willing to work towards leaving behind prostitution. The Mothers and Children in Crisis task force is a worthy cause, and we hope to be able to report soon that progress has been made in their effort.

That is to say, however, that Syracuse currently does not have such a resource to offer. And, since most drug treatment programs are voluntary and the maximum sentence for prostitution is not particularly steep, an arrest for prostitution doesn't necessarily break the cycle. (Or the drug habit the cycle typically feeds.)

We're not ready to say, though, that use of police resources for prostitution enforcement is a misuse of manpower or money, based entirely on the fact that the community has not yet been able to provide an effective, readily available rehabilitation resource for the individuals consequently charged with the crime.

Under such a criteria, we'd also have to question whether the police should be addressing domestic abuse, gang violence, drug and illegal weapon sales, or crimes against children.

Just because we haven't found a way to eliminate the problem — yet — doesn't mean it should be ignored.

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