By Vince Bobot
We have all heard the news about how the City of Milwaukee ranks high among cities experiencing an epidemic of human trafficking. Tragically, prostitution is a predominate activity associated with this awful activity destroying the lives of women, men and our community.
There are many reasons why the City of Milwaukee has been a target and magnet for this dreadful situation. Whether it is the proliferation of illegal drug use, the lack of a clear enforcement policy to deal with the problem or the absence of a coordinated strategy to discourage and combat it, human trafficking is not going away unless we do something about it.
Right now, the City Attorney is not assuming any meaningful role in developing a viable strategy or solution to deal with human trafficking in Milwaukee. Yet, the City Attorney, through ordinance enforcement, should be at the forefront in identifying people engaged in human trafficking and is uniquely positioned to do something about it.
Through thoughtful ordinance enforcement, many of the problems facing Milwaukee can be minimized and kept under control. Human trafficking is literally enslaving many of our young boys, girls, women and men. Prostitution is a criminal offense. Yet, the enforcement against it presents quite a problem for police.
Many people engaged in prostitution have been well schooled on how to avoid detection and arrest. A police officer needs a, clear indication that a person is offering a sexual act for a thing of value before he/ she can arrest someone for prostitution. However, that is not the case with the city ordinance, Loitering (Prostitution Related).
The city ordinance, Loitering (Prostitution Related), reads as follows: It shall be unlawful for any person to loiter or drive in any public place in a manner and under circumstances manifesting the purpose of inducing, enticing, soliciting or procuring another to commit an act of prostitution.
Presently, we have many of our city streets with large numbers of women and men walking or driving around engaged in prostitution without fear of arrest. What better way to identify and take someone into custody then using ordinance enforcement. Instead of relying on the verbal exchange between a police officer and a person engaged in prostitution to establish a case, visible observation of activity evidencing that purpose allows a police officer to take someone into custody and refer them to court where services can be in place to help that person. Additionally, that visible observation applies to both the person offering an act of sex for a thing of value and the person seeking it.
Once a person has been taken into custody for loitering, there is now another vehicle in place to deal with prostitution. Ordinance enforcement is remedial by its very nature and lends itself to referral to outside agencies to work with individuals to save their very lives.
As your next City Attorney, I will be directly involved in working with the community, the police department, district attorney’s office, and social service agencies in developing and formulating initiatives to combat human trafficking. Sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing about human trafficking as City Attorney must end.