House Launches Study to Review Problem of Prostitution, John TV

Article excerpt

The House Criminal Justice Committee began a study this week of the problem of prostitution in Oklahoma City and a program, John TV, offered on cable television by the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Rep. Al Lindley, D-Oklahoma City, in House Study Proposal 99-65, asked for a review of laws needing to be changed to give municipalities a better handle on prosecution of prostitution near schools and other public buildings.

He read from a prepared statement saying the activity is not a problem just for the prostitute and client but that there are other victims, as well, including spouses, children and communities themselves. He said prostitution also can result in the spread of AIDS.

There also is an economic impact on communities, he said, resulting from reduced patronage of local businesses and homeowners' possible inability to sell homes in areas known as places where prostitutes meet their clients on the street.

Lt. Greg Taylor, with OCPD's vice unit and coordinator of John TV, said the service was developed to combat the prostitution problem on a portion of South Robinson in Oklahoma City. The program, offered on Cox Cable Channel 22, first showed on March 3 and, since then, police photographs of 122 individuals have been displayed -- 67 females and 55 males, Taylor said. Since the program began airing, he said, arrests are down.

"Circuit prostitutes are not there in the numbers of previous years," Taylor said. "Now, they're mostly local."

And, although substance abuse traditionally had not been a problem, he said, about 90 percent of prostitutes currently are substance abusers. Before, he said, pimps would not allow the use of drugs, since that makes them loyal to something else.

Rep. John Nance, R-Bethany, asked what sanctions may be imposed against pimps.

Taylor said the law provides for 10 years' incarceration and, if a minor is involved, the prison time could be greater.

But he said it is difficult to prosecute a pimp, since a prostitute usually is not considered a reliable witness.

Rep. David B. Braddock, D-Altus, asked what the drug of choice for prostitutes is and if programs are available for treatment.

Taylor said alcohol is the preferred drug but added that the illegal drug of choice is cocaine. He added that the district attorney has the option of sending the offender to Drug Court, which provides for treatment programs. "But, by the time they get there, they are so far down that it's hard to bring them up," Taylor said. "A lot of girls really have run out of options."

Lindley asked if anything could be done legislatively to aid in the prosecution of pimps.

Taylor said it might help if law enforcement could institute wire tape on a statewide level.

Ed Hasbrook, with the Oklahoma City municipal attorney's office, said that for prostitutes' clients, exposure probably is the worst thing that could happen to them.

"It works as a deterrent and makes the crime somehow personal," Hasbrook said.

Rep. Bill Paulk, D-Oklahoma City, who chairs the House committee, asked if the law allows suspected offenders' likenesses to be aired after arrest but before conviction.

Hasbrook responded that arrest reports already are public records but that Oklahoma City officials still do not televise a photograph until criminal charges have been filed.

"Then they're eligible to be put on TV," Hasbrook said. …