U.S. Mayor Article

Miami Curbs Prostitution with Strategic Mapping Program

October 20, 2003

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida, Miami's sandy beaches, diversity and hot nightlife are unrivaled attractions. But as Fox News reported recently, prostitution has become a growth industry and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and the city are responding to the issue accordingly.

Earlier this summer, the city implemented "Prostitution Mapping" and Miami police began to enforce the controversial new program, which is intended to help eliminate prostitution in the Gateway city. The program is part of a top-down citywide effort to clean up the city. In close cooperation with the State Attorney's office, the police department has worked to designate certain areas frequented by prostitutes as prostitution zones.

Prostitution mapping identifies four sectors or prostitution zones in the city and police officers are assigned to specifically target the problem in those areas. When prostitutes are arrested, they are held for bond hearings but can be released on bond of $2000.00. Convicted offenders are provided two options at the next step of the process: go to jail, or as part of a probationary sentence, sign a document committing to stay away from the area for between three and six months unless they live, work in legal employment, conduct legitimate business or other personal affairs not related to prostitution in the area. Of course, offenders who engage in prostitution irrespective of their participation in the mapping program are subject to rearrest and conviction. The period for which they are required to stay away from the zone varies depending upon the prostitute's arrest history.

Convicted prostitutes electing to participate in the mapping program are given non-reporting probationary sentences and as described, are required to stay out of those zones as part of the probation with the exceptions described above. Convicted prostitutes are mandated to take an HIV/AIDS test and participate in HIV/AIDS awareness education programming. The method allows police to arrest the prostitute on site if they are found to be engaging in prostitution in the zone subsequent to the probation.

Elimination of Prostitution Leads to Reduction in Related Crimes

Police officers enforce the program by using computer printouts with accompanying pictures of the offending prostitutes. If the prostitutes become repeat offenders they will serve time in jail.

The program is part of a larger citywide effort by Mayor Diaz to further clean up the image of Miami. "The mapping system is just one way Miami continues to work to reduce crime and improve the appearance of our streets and neighborhoods," said Diaz. "By working to eradicate prostitution in the city, we are cutting down on the drug use, violence and other offenses that are tied to this one crime."

Miami Police Chief John Timoney echoes Diaz. "We-re trying to quite literally clean up the city aesthetically. We-re trying to make it look safe, feel safe and be safe," he says.

Program Modeled on Successful Drug Courts — Combines Enforcement with Counseling and Treatment for Offenders

The program offers counseling and treatment sessions for the apprehended women who elect to participate in the mapping program. Signing up for the program is an indicator that the prostitutes themselves are aware of their problems, and therefore are deserving of assistance.

"It's similar to the pretty successful drug courts that you see popping up across America where the alternative to incarceration is rehabilitation and treatment," Timoney says. "While prostitution obviously is a crime and reads as a crime, these people in some respects are probably unfortunates that need help."

In recent years, Miami's police department introduced a number of initiatives to reduce prostitution in the city. Historically, however, prostitutes were often released on their own recognizance and as a result there existed a disincentive for officers to follow through with booking them.

If the prostitutes sign onto the mapping program, the officers do not have to bother them. That, along with the rehabilitation plan, leads the city to believe the program will substantially curb Miami's prostitution problem.

"It gives us another tool, if you will, on the issue of quality of life," Timoney said. "Not in the traditional sense of going and prosecuting people, but looking to assist (these) prostitutes in dealing with their causes."

For more information, contact Officer Greg Bavonese, Miami Police Department, 400 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, FL 33128-1706. Telephone: 305-490-0758; Email: gbavonese@aol.com

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