‘Prostitution free zones’ not way to combat problem

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By The Staff

OK, we admit it – we don’t quite get it. Lancaster County Council’s consideration of an ordinance that would declare three areas just outside the city of Lancaster as “prostitution-free zones” just doesn’t quite make sense to us.

Prostitution-free zone? Who came up with phrase and concept? It’s something we’ve never heard of and, frankly, wouldn’t have thought Lancaster County needed.

Steve Willis, county administrator, told County Council that other localities have designated areas as “prostitution-free” or “prostitution-exclusion” zones as a way of combating prostitution. The city of Charlotte is one area that has prostitution-exclusion zones.

This is how it works: If a person has been arrested for crimes such as engaging in prostitution, aiding and abetting prostitution and forcing someone into prostitution, she or he is not permitted on the public right-of-way in the prostitution-exclusion zone for 90 days. After the 90-day ban, the person may be allowed back in the zone, if she or he isn’t arrested again. If the person is arrested again, she or he may be charged with trespassing and be banned for a year from the zone.

The sheriff says prostitution-free zones have worked in other areas and they could help combat prostitution here. The three areas the county is considering declaring prostitution-exclusion zones are Brooklyn, Memorial Park and Midway. These are areas that have seen prostitution rise as the old neighborhoods have deteriorated. Most of the women who are engaging in prostitution in these areas are doing so to get money to buy drugs, the sheriff said.

While we appreciate that county leaders are wanting to address the issue of prostitution in Lancaster County, we question whether this idea is really going to help. Our main concern is that if certain areas are declared “prostitution free,” wouldn’t that just encourage those who engage in prostitution to set up shop on a street corner somewhere else? We’re also concerned about the red tape it would create for our law officers if they had to try to keep track of who is banned and who is not banned from these zones. Just how do they plan to do that? Have people wear scarlet letters?