I had a good reminder yesterday.
A reminder about some of the not so obvious impacts of the sex trade and the flawed strategies aimed at curtailing it.
The reminder came in the way of an emotionally charged blog post called “The Truth About Street Prostitution – A Resident’s Perspective on the #yegsecret that is Not.” The story was posted on a site called NICE (Neighbours in Central Edmonton) and was written by a frustrated contributor voicing concerns about living in a neighbourhood infested with sex trade workers.
The City of Edmonton and the City of Winnipeg face similar challenges regarding high violent crime indexes and issues surrounding drug trafficking, street gangs and the sex trade. In 2013, Edmonton recorded twenty-eight (28) Homicides leading all other major western urban centres. (Winnipeg came second recording twenty-five.)
Much of my career in Law Enforcement revolved around murder, gangs, drugs and sex trade investigations.
After graduating from the Police Academy I was assigned to patrol the Main Street zone, an area plagued by drug traffickers, pimps, prostitutes and a variety of other criminal misfits. In the months and years that followed I would come to know literally hundreds of street prostitutes who plied their trade on “the drag.”
The women who worked the stroll came from diverse backgrounds, demographics and racial origins. The majority, however, were young Aboriginal women who came to the big City from remote towns in Northern Manitoba. Diverse backgrounds and racial origins aside, these women were all connected by one commonality. They almost all struggled with serious, debilitating, drug addiction issues.
These women were helplessly trapped in the dreaded sex trade worker 24 /7 cycle of drug addiction; seek out a customer – get paid – get drugs – get high and repeat. Feeding the drug addiction became the entire focus of their universe and meant the sacrifice of a “normal” human existence. Basic necessities like food, sleep, warmth, family and personal security were disregarded in favour of their street drug of choice.
There can be no doubt, these women are victims on many levels.
That doesn’t mean they don’t victimize, as the author of the NICE blog post suggests.
The truth is, street prostitutes often present great danger to their clients as many of these women have emotional or mental health issues, are sleep deprived, violent, malnourished and suffer from a variety of health issues that include STD’s, HIV, AIDS and hepatitis. They also have a propensity to carry edged weapons and frequently “jack” or rob their clients.
In Winnipeg, several men have been murdered by sex trade workers.
But there’s more to the story.
Street prostitutes have a nasty habit of degrading the safety and security of the neighbourhoods where they choose to ply their trade. While the men who use the services provided by sex trade workers make a conscious choice to expose themselves to the risks associated to the sex trade, senior citizens, parents and children who live in the affected neighborhoods make no such choice.
Imagine having to educate young and innocent minds about the dangers of picking up the used condoms and syringes that litter your neighbourhood.
Imagine your children being exposed to women performing oral sex or sexual intercourse in parked cars on your streets.
Imagine your child observing scantily clad prostitutes flashing their breasts at Johns as they curb crawl in your neighbourhood.
Imagine men propositioning your teenaged daughters for sexual favours as they walk home from school.
Imagine being verbally abused or robbed by drug crazed street prostitutes working on your street corners.
The people who live in lower-income neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, Edmonton and other major urban centres in Canada don’t have to imagine these things. These things form part of their every day experience and define the struggle for economically challenged neighbourhoods to reclaim their dignity, safety and security.
Much like the Edmonton experience, political and strategic approaches by Law Enforcement in Winnipeg have made significant contributions to the problem. That’s because Police enforcement in conjunction with traffic calming measures aimed at deterring street prostitution forced sex trade workers to leave industrial areas on the “low track” (Higgins, Main, Martha) in favour of residential areas in the West and North End.
Good intentions aside, it seems someone should be concerned about a remedy.
The fact is, the NICE people and the people in Winnipeg who sit on their porches in the West and North Ends are victims of geographical genocide. Street prostitution would never be tolerated in affluent neighbourhoods in Winnipeg where urban professionals and middle class tax payers reside.
So why is it okay for it to occur in other neighbourhoods?
The answer is, it’s not!
Now that the Supreme Court of Canada has spoken on the issue it’s time for our Politicians, Social Services, Prosecutors and Police to put their collective heads together and come up with a new strategy to deal with issues related to the sex trade and street prostitution.
One of their prime objectives should be to eradicate the sex trade from all of our residential neighbourhoods regardless of geographical status or significance.
If for no other reason, shouldn’t we do it for the kids?
Winnipeg Sex Trade Killers;
January 28, 1994 – Paul Pshebnicki (67) killed by sex trade worker Cynthia Lee Friesen (23) at his residence at 470 Pacific Ave. Friesen was later acquitted by a jury after esteemed defense lawyer Mr Greg Brodsky made a successful argument for self defense.
March 15, 2002 – James Fero (35) murdered while standing on Sherbrook Street when fatally stabbed in the chest by sex trade worker Amanda Stove (24) during strong arm robbery. Fero had no connection to Stove or the sex trade.
July 31, 2010 – Michael Allan (62) brutally murdered in his home by sex trade worker Mary Ellen Thomas (30) after Allan picked her up at a 7-11 in the West End.
December 26 / 27, 2013 – Keith McFee (69) slain by sex trade worker Leanne May Henderson (31) in his residence after he picked her up at an undisclosed location.