The Erotic Service Provider Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) joins with the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club in calling foul on the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) ramping up of prostitution stings – they call it “enforcement operations” and “prostitution abatement” – in the Mission district Capp Street corridor. There is ample evidence that police crackdowns on sex work do not reduce the incidence of prostitution, but instead simply displace it to more dangerous and hidden locations. As a result, there is increased violence against sex workers, as well as harm to the broader community.
“Police enforcement doesn’t work when it comes to sex work between consenting adults” said Jeffrey Kwong, President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. “We need community-led solutions that center the voices and experiences of sex workers and other marginalized communities. By engaging in dialogue and collaboration with sex workers and their allies, we can develop policies and programs that prioritize the health, safety, and human rights of all individuals involved in the sex industry.” “The SFPD press release is misleading and full of derogatory language”, said Maxine Doogan, a current sex worker. “They refer to clients as “Johns” – a slang term that is sexist and derogatory. They claim they are combating trafficking – but so far have only issued citations and arrests for consensual sex work and traffic violations. This operation might make SFPD numbers look good. But having a misdemeanor arrest for prostitution can seriously impact your housing, your work, and even lead to deportation.”
ESPLERP’s recent report, “How The War On Sex Work Is Stripping Your Privacy Rights” (https://esplerp.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Consumer-Privacy-Final.pdf) showed that law enforcement is routinely gathering data (from license readers, pole cameras, cellphones, social media) about sex workers, their clients, and individuals who just happen to be in the vicinity (such as residents and passers-by) to build vast unregulated databases. “We know the police use technology to target sex workers and our clients”, said Claire Alwyne of ESPLERP. “They won’t admit it, but you can bet they are indiscriminately collecting data at Capp Street. But there is no way of knowing what data they collect during these prostitution stings, until you are denied housing or employment, or you’re stopped, searched and questioned at customs when you’re traveling home from overseas.” Sex workers demand decriminalization!