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Monday, July 10, 2000

Wahiawa tries
to eliminate

A bill being considered would
make it a prostitution-free zone

By Pat Gee


Police Sgt. Fay Tamura thinks streetwalkers will find it harder to do business in Wahiawa if the City Council passes a prostitution-free zone bill.

But two Wahiawa pastors aren't convinced, saying it would just force prostitutes to take their trade elsewhere.

If the bill passes, enforcement could be stepped up and prostitutes would face harsher penalties in the so-called prostitution-free zones. The bill would designate Wahiawa, the Ala Moana area and downtown Honolulu as such zones. Waikiki was designated a prostitution-free zone last year.

Tamura, who has been in charge of the prostitution unit in Wahiawa for two years, said adding the "geographical restriction" would allow a judge to put prostitutes in jail without bail for up to 30 days, as well as ban their return to the district for six months.

The Wahiawa Neighborhood Board launched a campaign two years ago to rid the town of streetwalkers, especially in residential areas, according to Chairman Ben Acohido.

"A family was driven from the neighborhood" because of the prostitution, he said.

Community members took to walking alongside prostitutes to discourage solicitation.

Although the problem eased temporarily, the activity "is still prevalent," said police Maj. William Gulledge.

The two officers said many of the streetwalkers are transvestites.

If a prostitution free-zone "is what the community wants, we'll support it," said Lt. Rich Pease, pastor of the Salvation Army church on California Avenue. "But it's not the answer to the problem. They'll just relocate. We have to provide them some sort of program to change their lifestyle."

The Rev. Michael Henderson of the New Life Body of Christ on Kamehameha Highway agreed. "We think what they're trying to do is commendable, but we need to come up with alternatives. It's no solution to the problem to just try to make them go away," Henderson said.

"A lot of them don't want to be in" (the business, but) "have to survive and have no place to go. We hope to have a house for them, a transition building, a safe environment, so they don't have to go back to a drug-infested home or bad environment."

Henderson also disputed the perception that the military is the main source of clientele. About half are local people, he said, adding he's seen them in the early morning or late at night when he's at the church youth center on California and Walker avenues.

At community meetings, he said he's asked if anyone would offer a job to a prostitute as an alternative, but "there were no takers."

Mary Patterson, who manages the Mango Marketplace, bordered by California Avenue and Mango Place and Street, doesn't think prostitutes create a major problem for the complex. But "customers don't like it" when they enter the stores, and she thinks business would improve if they were banned.

Patterson says she has to clean up a lot of rubbish every morning, but "I can't say who's doing it."

Marketplace owner Lucky Cole said prostitutes "definitely create a security problem." He said he would probably open his stores later than 7 p.m. if they did not come out around 8 p.m.

A spot survey of bars in the area indicated owners weren't bothered by prostitutes.

"If a person comes into my place I cannot refuse service as long as they behave," said Rosa's bar owner Victor Garo.

"They're just as human as anybody else, but I'd rather not have them in here. I can survive without them."

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