The Asheville Police Department has launched an effort to disseminate names and photos of individuals arrested on prostitution charges, according to a press release sent out this morning. The photos, names, cities of residence and charges of prostitutes and those charged with soliciting prostitution will now appear online in a police blotter, which was just created. The information will also air on the Asheville Channel Bulletin Board (Charter cable channel 11).
The move comes after five undercover prostitution sting operations conducted Jan. 12 through Feb. 1, which resulted in 34 arrests, according to APD Officer Steve Riddle. The individuals displayed on the Web site were charged during the sting operation, he said, but are still awaiting trial. Prostitution, a Class I misdemeanor, often results in court costs and a fine, according to Riddle, and releasing the photos and information to the public is meant to be a deterrent.
“People say prostitution is a victimless crime, but I don’t think that’s true,” he told Xpress. “Number one, we have this prostitution activity in residential neighborhoods. And a lot of these girls have diseases like Hepatitis and HIV, and these guys are taking it home to their families.”
According to the APD press release, prostitution is linked with drug activity and “associated crimes, such as disorderly conduct, increased noise and traffic and the loss of business to merchants.” Women who engage in prostitution, the release states, are often addicted to drugs and suffer both mental and physical violence.
Asked whether broadcasting prostitute’s names and faces might open the door to more physical violence directed toward them, Riddle replied, “No, I don’t think there’s a concern there.”
The release also noted that police have started sending cards to the owners of vehicles that were spotted cruising in areas known for high prostitution and drug activity. “If we observe a vehicle in a prostitution area or a drug area or public housing area … ‘doing the loop,’ as we call it, we send a card to the registered owner. It says, your vehicle was observed in a high crime area. It’s basically to let them know that, hey, we’re watching,” says Riddle.
Riddle says he does not know of plans to disseminate personal information about individuals charged for crimes other than prostitution in the online police blotter.
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor