Local News

Could Charlotte Scheme Reduce Prostitution in Durham?

Posted July 13, 2007 6:34 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2007 9:48 p.m. EDT

— Streetwalkers, ladies of the night, prostitutes – call them what you want, but Durham's mayor wants them out.

Mayor Bill Bell said he is interested in a program police in Charlotte use. There, known prostitutes are arrested for trespassing after being banned from certain sections of the city.

When Charlotte police began targeting prostitutes and charging them with trespassing, the city saw a reduction in solicitation and other crimes.

“My question is: ‘Why can’t we do it here in Durham?’” Bell said.

Police can explain why implementing that program would not be as simple as it sounds.

Prostitution problems experienced in the Queen City sound similar to those in the Bull City, Bell said.

“One of the complaints we constantly hear from residents is prostitution on streets,” he added.

In June, Bell suggested city officials look into Charlotte's "exclusion" program, which concentrates on a commercial part of the city's west end.

Most of the illegal activity locally is on street corners in North East Central Durham, one of the city's toughest neighborhoods.

That is why police aren't sure the program can work in Durham – not because it's a tough area but because it is a residential neighborhood.

“Here in the city of Durham, they carry on the activities where they live,” said Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers. “You can't exclude someone from where they live. You can from downtown or Guess Road.”

In the past year, police have conducted 25 prostitution stings and arrested dozens of people. But officers say the same offenders just come back for more. The job for the mayor and police is to figure out how to clean up the street corners permanently.

In recent years, Durham police tried a "redirection" program in which they offered prostitutes drug and mental health counseling instead of jail time. Most of the women opted for jail, police said. As for Charlotte, the city council must vote next year to extend the program.