Near NE Residents Express Outrage at Prostitutes Plying Trade on Elementary School Grounds
by Larry Janezich
A dozen residents of nearby NE showed up at PSA 104 last night to express outrage at the ongoing solicitation of sex by prostitutes in and around the 200 block of K Street, NE. Residents say that the portico and grounds of J.O. Wilson Elementary School at 660 K Street, NE, are being used for illicit sex and that children attending the schools are confronted with used condoms – and worse – on their way to school. One resident told Lt. B. Christian of the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (NSID) that “condoms and latex gloves on streets and school grounds are not acceptable.” All of the residents present last night wanted city officials to respond more forcefully to the use of school grounds to have sex. One K Street resident told of arriving home late to find prostitutes in front of his house and being ignored when he asked them to move away.
Residents and police both characterized the trade as male prostitution and in connection with that, presenting distinct patterns – namely in the aggressive behavior of the prostitutes and nature of the detritus left on the street and school grounds. Lt. Christian said that the ten undercover members of his 16 person Task Force had made 117 arrests in two months and said he hoped continuing pressure would deter prostitutes and their customers. The Task Force is charged with enforcement of sex trafficking across the city. He said that 85% of the arrests have been of customers – that it’s harder to arrest prostitutes because a conversation offering sex for money is necessary for an arrest, and the vice officers quickly become known to the prostitutes. Christian did not say what leads to the arrest of customers for solicitation, whether through surveillance techniques or use of undercover officers being approached by customers for sex, but recent Washington Post coverage has reported on sting operations on K Street, NW, and around Thomas Circle resulting in numerous arrests. Christian said that a lot of jurisdictions “go the public shaming route”, publishing the names or photos of sex customers, but any such effort in DC would require a law passed by the City Council and would likely raise troubling questions.
This particular sex market, like others, has proved resilient in the face of enforcement efforts. Prosecution of solicitation and prostitution crimes comes under MPD’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division. Prostitutes and their customers are both subject to misdemeanor charges and both carry the same penalty – a fine of $500 and/or 90 days in jail for the first offense. A misdemeanor charge is not subject to a jury trial, and is decided by a judge.
Assistant US Attorney Doug Klein, who was present at last night’s meeting, says that the prostitutes are relentless – they go back in business right after being arrested. Detention is subjectively decided by a judge, but, Klein noted detaining prostitutes is not as high a priority as detaining felons.
Unlike the sale in illicit drugs, the law stipulates no special penalty for prostitution in or around school grounds.
Asked what residents could do to lobby the City Council to help MPD address the problem, Christian allowed that getting more government agencies involved is certainly a start. One resident spoke up, saying, “We’ve been complaining forever. The Mayor and Chief Lanier are both aware of this problem. The police are working very hard, but it’s not working.” Asked if he would commit to develop a plan to address the problem and present it at next month’s PSA meeting, Christian replied, “No. My plan is what I’ve been doing. Planning is up to the First District Command Staff. The only thing I can guarantee is that we’ll be out there.”