by Vickie Vértiz
State data recently released shows that Orange Country police are arresting less women and more men who are involved in sex work, said the Register.
One reason for the change is that some agencies now consider sex workers as “victims of abuse rather than criminals,” said the paper, and are connecting some women with counseling and not jail.
County agencies, in 2013, recorded the “fewest female arrests since 2001 and the most male arrests since 2006,” said the paper. However, arrests for women still “eclipsed male arrests,” but the gap was the smallest it has been in ten years.
“You will see a trend for more male arrests, because [officers are] going after those who put the girls on the streets,” Anaheim police spokesman Lieutenant Bob Dunn told the Register. “[…] our focus […] countywide is getting […] to those individuals instead of trying to arrest our way out of this problem.”
Police have tried every strategy to deter prostitution including cracking down on each component of the sex work economy which includes the sellers, buyers, and organizers, or as the paper called them, pimps.
Sex workers are the easiest to find given predominantly male police forces which would have to find female officers to arrest pimps, said the paper. From 2003 and 2012, Orange County saw that 76 percent of the prostitution arrests involved women. That data decreased to 64 percent in 2013, which is a huge decline after very little change in the last ten years.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force led by Anaheim police are both leading the effort to switch strategies around decreasing prostitution. In April of 2013, Rackauckas created a unit targeting johns and pimps, while simultaneously briefing police to treat sex workers like potential victims.
“Most of times […], she [is] a broken girl who [has] been used and abused by men,” Susan Kang Schroeder told the paper, chief of staff for Rackauckas.
Proposition 35 increased penalties for human trafficking and created safeguards for victims and this prompted creation of the unit, said the Register. If they are determined to be trafficking victims, prostitutes are supposed to be protected from prosecution.
The unit has 62 felony convictions, Schroeder told the paper, locking up some pimps for four to six years.
Linh Tran, the lead administrator for the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, said the longtime focus of the county on arresting women was not effective. Hundreds of women were arrested annually but did not generate permanent results in reduction of sex work.
Tran added that it was “too soon to say whether the new focus” of the county on arresting men is a more effective crime deterrent, “but at least officers are treating women with more dignity.” Social workers get connected with prostitutes and help them find employment, housing, and drug addiction counseling, said the paper.