Shooting should bring crackdown on prostitution
Police Chief Boisse Correa is asking the City Council to expand the downtown "prostitution-free zone" to include Chinatown.
A PROSTITUTION-related shooting death has energized downtown residents to combat the practice of the world's oldest profession in their Chinatown neighborhood
. The concerns should result in expansion of a zone that puts convicted prostitutes at greater risk of serving jail time and increased enforcement of the law.
About 5,000 people live within two blocks of the corner of Nuuanu Avenue and Kukui Street, where a 24-year-old man was shot to death by a pimp near midnight on July 1 in an argument about prostitution, according to police. Prostitution has been on the rise in that area this year, and residents have police support for widening the zone.
A law enacted by the Legislature six years ago made all of Waikiki a "prostitution-free zone" and authorized county councils to create similar zones elsewhere. The City Council was quick to create such a zone surrounded by Nuuanu Avenue, Nimitz Highway, the H-1 freeway and Punchbowl Street.
Any person convicted of engaging in prostitution in those zones faces a mandatory jail term of 30 days or the option of not stepping foot on public property in the zone from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for up to six months. Anyone opting to stay away and violating the condition serves the 30 days.
A proposal in 2001 by then-City Councilman John Henry Felix to extend the downtown zone west to Aala Street so it would encompass all of Chinatown was rejected by the Council, although supported by the police. Councilman Rod Tam now is drafting a similar proposal, and it should be enacted quickly.
Of course, neither Waikiki nor the downtown zone have been "prostitution-free," but a city deputy prosecutor says the zoning law has reduced prostitution. Some prostitutes interviewed by the Star-Bulletin's Rosemarie Bernardo indicated they plan to continue their business in the area proposed for extension of the downtown zone.
Since the shooting, the city has trimmed trees along the sidewalk bordering Kukui Plaza, and Longs Drug store has installed brighter lights on the rear wall of its Pali store facing Kukui Street. Brightening the area could create an uninviting venue for prostitution.
Police enforcement would discourage the crime further by attacking the demand for sex trafficking -- arresting customers. The city should consider establishing a "johns school," which has been effective in deterring prostitution on the mainland.
Initiated by San Francisco in 1995, first-time offenders are able to expunge their convictions by subjecting themselves to two days of lecturing at the School for Johns about the legal, social and health aspects of prostitution, and avoiding re-arrest for two years.
The lectures are given by a district attorney's representative, a health worker, a social worker and a former victim of sexual exploitation. A study showed the participants' recidivism rate to be less than 1 percent during the program's first three years, and it has been duplicated by dozens of other cities.