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The Boston Globe

Opinion

LAWRENCE HARMON

Targeting johns, not prostitutes

Back in September, Boston mayoral candidate Martin Walsh called a press conference in Dewey Square to outline a thoughtful strategy to combat the commercial sex trade in Boston. Not a single reporter showed up other than one who accidentally happened by. But now that he has the title of mayor, Walsh can expect a wider audience.

On Tuesday, Walsh is convening a summit on human trafficking for law enforcement, activists, and educators. The meeting coincides with a widespread shift in thinking about how the principle of supply and demand applies to prostitution. Rather than prosecute prostitutes, the new approach calls for greater targeting of the “johns” who purchase sex acts. Today, Boston Police are more likely to steer a prostitute to a job training counselor than a judge. And despite a dismal start in enforcing a 2012 law aimed at curbing demand, Suffolk prosecutors are starting to make cases against johns who are named, shamed in the local press, and slapped with $1,000 fines for attempting to buy sex.

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