Prostitutes, allies advocate safety for sex workers
Police, prosecutors say uphill battle to
Peter Hartlaub, of The San Francisco Examiner, August 2000
defending prostitutes took their concerns about violence to City Hall,
hoping for changes that will make sex workers safer on the streets.
members of the Finance and Labor Committee on Wednesday, more than a dozen
supporters suggested less money should be spent fighting prostitution with
more money going to social services to help the women.
see on a daily basis violence, whether it's verbal or physical
violence," said Betty Traynor, who lives near Capp Street in the
Mission. "I think what The City's doing now is not working."
Tom Ammiano noted that the committee could not take action Wednesday, but
suggested the entire Board of Supervisors could eventually act.
A lot of
the talk focused on the Jack Bokin Case. Bokin was sentenced in January to
231 years to life for a string of violent attacks on prostitutes - at
least one of which occurred while Bokin was out on bail.
said that Bokin, a Mission District plumbing contractor, chose prostitutes
as his victims because he thought police would not believe them, and court
authorities would consider them unreliable witnesses.
read several statements from working prostitutes, who claimed they are
harassed by police and are not always taken made when complaints are made.
Schneider, who said she is a prostitute, showed up for the hearing,
telling the committee, "We have rights just as anyone else who has a
working job in this city."
the San Francisco Police Department and district attorney's office
defended themselves, saying they are doing what.
they can, but need more funding.
Assistant District Attorney Linda Klee
said her office is willing to prosecute violent acts against prostitutes,
but many prostitutes are not willing to testify, or disappear before
their cases go to trial.
"It's a major, major problem,"
The SFPD created the Crimes Against
Prostitutes unit last year. Police spokesman Inspector Sherman Ackerson
said prostitutes who report crimes will not be arrested for prostitution.
"We want to do everything we can to
encourage prostitutes to come forward when they are victims
of crime," Ackerson said. "The department will investigate
crimes against prostitutes as vigorously as crimes against anybody
Rachel West of US PROStitutes Collective,
who helped organize a rally on the City Hall steps before the meeting,
made her feelings clear afterward.
"There's been public hearings before," West said. "It's time to implement some policies."