• September 15, 2011


What happens when street prostitution invades an otherwise quiet neighborhood?

This Los Angeles Life,

We have been told that the police have made 100’s of arrests in our area since June. As impressive as that sounds, you know what? The only number I care about is ZERO. Zero women standing on the corner selling themselves. Zero pimps parking on my street. Zero traffic from Johns. Zero used condoms in my yard. Zero girls getting beaten up. Zero children being robbed of their innocence. Zero attitude from my elected officials who somehow seem to think this is all an accepted part of living in South LA.

I have asked a pimp to please move his car because it was blocking my driveway. I have looked out my dining room window only to see a man getting oral sex in his car. I have stepped over used condoms to get into my vehicle and pulled condom wrappers out of my garden. I have been unable to sleep at night because ‘Johns’ keep driving around and around the block waiting for a prostitute to become available. I have seen women standing on the corner at 7am wearing long shirts or maybe very, very short dresses with no underwear while young children walk past them on the way to school. I have been awoken in the middle of the night by 2 pimps beating a 13-14 year old girl because she didn’t want to sell herself and “just wanted to go home!”

Now imagine this was happening outside of your house. Imagine the neighborhood children are your children. Imagine the elderly ladies who are afraid to go outside are your grandmothers. Imagine the 14 year old girl who is walking her dog and getting cruised by men looking to buy sex is your niece. Now imagine this wasn’t happening for one day or one week, but every day for over one year! How would you feel? What would you do?

Maybe your first thought is we need to move. Ask yourself who is going to buy a house with 4 prostitutes standing in front of it?

Maybe you think you would call the police, Vice, the police Watch Commander or Captain? When we first started calling the police they often wouldn’t show up even if we called multiple times. Prostitution is considered a low level crime, often referred to as a victimless crime, so if something more pressing like a murder or robbery is occurring the police do not respond.

Now that the police are more responsive, it still takes them about one hour to respond unless they already happen to be in the area. Vice has started conducting 1-2 stings a month in our neighborhood. Things are “improving” if you consider prostitution happening 3-4 nights a week instead of every night and 2 or 3 girls standing on the corner instead of 5 an improvement. The police are making an effort but it isn’t enough. They need the cooperation of the judges, lawmakers and City Attorney.

What about City Counsel? We had a community meeting with LAPD, Vice, City Attorney and representatives from Councilman Bernard Parks office about prostitution in June of this year. At that time it was recommended that the City trim trees and install brighter lighting or additional lighting. It is now September and the trees have not been trimmed. A representative of Bernard Parks confided that they haven’t trimmed the trees in our district in over 2 years. There is no additional lighting, although I was emailed a handy petition that I could get all my neighbors to sign stating that we would pay for the cost of the additional lights out of our own pockets each month! Keep in mind I live in one of the lowest personal income Districts in Los Angeles.

I am treated more as an annoyance than a person looking for leadership and help from my elected officials. The fact that Councilman Parks earns over 14k a month and does nothing about the street prostitution happening in our neighborhood makes me absolutely irate. Los Angeles City Council members are some of the highest paid in the country.

Why isn’t Parks working closely with LAPD and the City Attorney’s office to get tougher on pimps, Johns and prostitutes? Why isn’t he heading a Prostitution Task Force or think tank to come up with creative ideas to solve this problem? Why isn’t he doing ANYTHING except blocking the neighborhood twitter so he doesn’t have to be bothered with the problem?

Maybe you would think of getting more involved and trying to create a positive change? I contacted groups working to help women leave prostitution. One group wanted to come into the area one day a week with a Prostitution Diversion Program. The group is not moving forward at this time with their plan because they would have to get accredited by the City to work in our area, and jumping through the hoops required by the City is supposed to be a nightmare.

South Los Angeles has it’s own Prostitution Diversion Program run by the City Attorney’s office. This program is only available to first time offenders, which disqualifies the vast majority of women and men (our area also has male prostitutes) arrested for prostitution. Most prostitutes choose not to participate in the program because on average they spend only 1-2 days in jail, and are often released from jail in a matter of hours due to overcrowding.

The judges often sentence prostitutes to probation. When a woman can be serving six different probations at the same time for prostitution arrests, you have to wonder how did the system get this broken?

Why aren’t multiple offenders sentenced to a mandatory Prostitution Diversion Program or community service to be served in the community where they committed the crime? I would love for the pimps and Johns to come pick up the used condoms off my street instead of me. Who do you think cleans up the discarded, used condoms in front of our homes? The homeowners.

What is the answer? I have thought to myself a million times, “Can we please have a hooker-free night?”

One thing I know for sure, the chance of me sitting quietly by and turning a blind eye to what is happening? Absolutely zero.

Comments { 20 }
  1. Jennifer

    I feel for you, Heather. We were having a garage sale this past weekend and a neighbor approached us to ask if we were aware of the “traffic” in and out of the apartment house right next to us. I had been oblivious. But sure enough there are cars, taxis and bikes and an assortment of sketchy people in and out of the place, mostly after dark. Now I am totally creeped out. When we bought our little house it was in one of the nicest parts of our small city. I didn’t expect this to happen here.

    I don’t want my son playing outside in our yard, and I’m afraid of these thugs thinking I turned them in. I called the cops one night to report the activity, but I don’t know what they’re doing about it. Our city has had one meth lab bust after another recently. Now I’m not even confident there are any “good parts” to live in. Part of me wants to move ASAP because my little boy deserves better, but like you said…who would buy knowing what’s going on around here? This is nothing compared to what you’re going through, I know, but I can kind of relate now. I don’t know what’s wrong with people.

    • Heather

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation, especially because of your son. The only thing making what we are going through bearable (if you can call it that) is that we don’t have children. If I had children while this is going on, I would be going out of my mind! Many people in our neighborhood do have children…

  2. Nancy

    Heather, It sounds absolutely frustating. I’m sure all of your neighbors have done their best with meetings, etc. I know you were interviewed by the LA Times but how about trying to get Steve Lopez at the Times to help or maybe even getting a local news station to do a story…. Better yet, take photos of these ‘Johns’ and post them! You’ve done such a great job on your house and I hope help comes soon. In the meantime, more lights and maybe a camera.

  3. Sherrill

    After all your hard work bringing your house back to a respectable condition, I hope your hard work in bringing your neighborhood back to a respectable condition pays off. As to the little house on Rimpau where my father grew up, it is gone! The 10 freeway took it away.

    Have you thought about installing a motion activated rain bird sprinkler that is aimed at where the cars and people hang out? You could just use it during the nighttime hours when there are unlikely to be legitimate pedestrians.

  4. Blossom

    This is so horrible. I can’t believe that this problem is being treated as such a low priority by the police and your councilman. It is shameful to allow the abuse of these women and the degradation of your neighborhood to continue. Obviously it can’t be tolerated and I commend you and your neighbors for fighting back.

    I agree that probably the most effective way to get something done about this is to draw attention through the media to the problem and shame the powers that be into doing what they should have done all along – everything necessary to stop this.

  5. Chaz

    Your councilman sounds like an absolute douche. Doesn’t he understand social media? The point is direct communication, a two way street, not a one-way push of his agenda.

    Disconnecting from twitter shows he doesn’t care about the problem. Someone is in desperate need of a social media course. Idiot.

    • Heather

      Councilman Parks earns over 14k a month and his Chief of Staff, who also happens to be his son, earns over 10K a month. Then Councilman Parks office tells me they don’t have the budget to address the basic needs of the neighborhood, such as trimming the trees or installing more lighting…things that were recommended they do to improve visibility on our streets and public safety…well, that just isn’t sitting well.

      • Shane

        Why has no news outlet picked up this aspect of the story?

  6. Janet

    Just saw this article at npr.com:
    I’m dealing with similar (though not nearly as bad… yet) issues here in Atlanta.
    Good luck.

    • Heather

      I’m sorry to hear that you are dealing with anything similar to what we are going through. Be as aggressive as possible about your situation now! If it gets too ingrained the Johns, pimps and prostitutes will start viewing your neighborhood as theirs.

      We first became aware of our problem in August of 2009. My husband was up very early in the morning training for the LA marathon and saw the prostitutes on the corner. At first it was a Thurs-Sun thing in our area. We contacted the police & vice, but were not nearly aggressive enough. The police would patrol the area for a while and once things improved, they would stop patrolling…allowing the pimps, prostitutes and Johns to come back into the area.

      The situation got worse and worse until there was prostitution happening in the daylight hours/prostitution nightly. And, this leads us to today.

      I wish I had contacted my elected officials and City Council much sooner. Not that doing that would have had much of an affect…I don’t think they would have been any more responsive 2 years ago…but I wasn’t as frustrated then. It is always better to address an issue before it reaches a boiling point.

  7. Anne

    I dealt with a smaller version of this problem in a previous apartment. fortunately police response was good there. I also dealt with it in another apartment in another town years ago. Police response was a joke there. My neighbors and I sat out on the front steps on summer nights, taking pictures, dialing 911, and verbally making the hookers and johns unwelcome. After a while, they got the message.

    Around a nearby park, the problem was so bad that residents around the park took pictures and license plate #s, got a cop friend to look up the addresses that went with those license #s. Then they sent postcards to those addresses, describing what they’d seen the person doing there, and the date and time. A few months of doing that reduced the traffic dramatically. (This was pre-internet.)

    I’d think that putting this info online could help expose your problem and perhaps shame the johns into staying away. Everyblock might be a good starting point. http://www.everyblock.com/

  8. Heather

    I want to thank everyone for all the good ideas! You have given us some great suggestions that we hadn’t considered.

  9. Ann

    Man, this sounds super frustrating. I used to get a lot of trash in my front yard in Portland, sometimes people peeing in the bushes and once a shooting, but nothing like the hell you’re going through. What about a webcam maybe? I usually use those for checking on weather at the beach, but maybe you can use it as an anti-John tool, similar to the postcard idea. I like the sprinkler idea too. Or get some attack geese. I wish you luck.

  10. Denise

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I thought of your blog when I read this article from the bay area about a town that fought back against of huge increase in prostitution: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/25/MNG61L4SP2.DTL&ao=2. I wish you continued good luck with the home and neighborhood improvements!

    • heather

      Thanks for this. Great article!

  11. Liz

    It is sad that you have put so much thought and hard work into making your house my “Bungalow Inspiration” only to have it all ruined. I cannot believe that your city councilman and city officials aren’t doing anything.

    Don’t the city officials realize that when neighborhoods deteriorate and crime is allowed, everyone suffers? What happens to the kids that are exposed to such “goings on” and all of the elements that go with it? Will those kids grow up add to the burden of prosecutors and police later because of some of what is becoming part of their everyday lives now?

    I would think your city officials would be grateful that you and others are bringing the situation to their attention and organizing to make a neighborhood in the district they are responsible for BETTER. Not blocking the neighborhood twitter so they don’t have to hear about it.

    Sorry for the rant, Heather. Reading your post makes me feel really bad for you and furious with your officials. They don’t sound as if they are even trying.

  12. Anonymous

    I know this is going to sound awful, but I’d shoot the Johns’ cars. Not hurt the people, just shoot the front or back, or shoot the tires. Wouldn’t take long before they’d stop coming, and then the business would dry up and move elsewhere.

    I think most city officials are where they are because of personal greed, not the desire to do right for the community.

  13. Rebecca

    I have noted that when all else fails with city officials etc in many instances neighborhoods take it on themselves to police the area. Groups of neighbors just going on walks in the evenings all together make criminals uncomfortable. If many of you took cameras with you that would be good as well. Unfortunately sometimes it takes the neighborhoods entire cooperation to make things change. Good luck to you and hopefully people will keep trying to get a news story out about this problem. Govt hates the light shined on them when they are not representing their people correctly.

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