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In tackling prostitution, target the buyers, not the sellers

In the article “Hub community tackles prostitution: Police, residents air their concerns” (Metro, Sept. 26), you report that Dorchester residents are eager to rid their streets of prostitution. I commend the Boston Police Department’s commitment to tackle the issue “from all angles,” including fighting the driving force of the sex trade: the buyers.

Arresting and re-arresting prostituted individuals is inefficient at best, and revictimization at worst. Research shows that 90 percent of those “in the life” want to leave. Whether it is to escape abusive homes, feed their kids, or satisfy commands of violent pimps, survivors tell us they’re there because they’ve no choice. Is that really a choice?

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Police across the United States are increasingly shining flashlights into minivan windows, and picking up the more-than-occasional businessman from the burbs. Cops say tackling demand is more effective. In fact, the johns themselves have told us so. In a study we conducted of 101 Boston men who buy sex, 88 percent said that if a family member were to be notified, they’d stop. An astounding 82 percent said that they would stop if their car were impounded. But these and many other deterrents depend on arrest.

Instead of locking up the women, let’s offer them job training, housing, and education, and let the johns foot the bill through fines for social services and police operations (as they’ve done in San Francisco).

We’ve been arresting the wrong people. I hope Dorchester gets it right.

Lina Nealon

Director

Demand Abolition

Cambridge

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