SRPD Chief Michael Dunbaugh,
Sheriff William Cogbill
Santa Rosa, CA
Prostitution Crossroads on Santa Rosa Avenue
Find: Oregon Study of 800 Prostitutes
DA Stephen Passalaqua, SRPD Chief Michael Dunbaugh, and
Sheriff William Cogbill,
writing to bring your attention to the harmful clash of
efforts that occurred with the high profile sweep and arrests
of prostitutes that was carried out last Friday night by
the SRPD and Sheriff teams.
ask you to consider and support an alternative approach
to prostitution that we, some of your sex crimes detectives,
and the DA sex crimes victim advocate have been working
on for the last month. It's an approach we hope you'll agree
holds potential benefits for law enforcement's ability to
fight serious violent crimes, as well as benefits for the
safety of all women and children throughout the community,
and for the safety of prostitutes. It's also an approach
that has also already involved many of your patrol officers
as well as the county Public Health HIV street team, the
DAAC street team, family planning clinicians, and some ex-prostitutes
who have joined in this effort.
hope you'll see that the sweep and arrests of prostitutes
last Friday not only undermines the outreach effort already
underway, but it also undermines the credibility of other
groups who had joined in the effort.
History: Over the last couple months, in the course
of expressing our concerns about the volley of violent crimes
against women on the Avenue, we were hearing frustrations
from officers of both departments regarding the difficulties
of getting the information and cooperation from local prostitutes
they needed in order to solve the crimes. As you know, this
recent rash of violent crimes on the Avenue includes, but
isn't limited to, the unsolved January murder of 21 year-old
April Lynn Misenhimer, an attempted murder of a prostitute,
and the brutal rape of a vulnerable teen who was mistaken
for a prostitute.
last month with sex crimes detectives, the DA victim advocate,
and ourselves, we and others laid out the following ideas
for obtaining needed cooperation of prostitutes with law
research shows that prostitutes everywhere are ongoing
victims of serious violent crimes. (See attached study
of 800 Oregon Prostitutes and other references.) The research
also shows that prostitutes rarely report these crimes
to law enforcement. Clearly there would be immense benefit
to the investigation and prevention of the assaults, rapes,
and murders of prostitutes if prostitutes would entrust
these problems to law enforcement.
But there would also be a much broader benefit to the
prevention of sexual violence against all the women and
children of the community. This is because sex offenders
use the prostitutes on Santa Rosa Avenue. These offenders
are known to prostitutes and the prostitutes know who
is violent and who's not. As such, having prostitutes
willing to talk with law enforcement would serve as early
warning on all the sex offenders in the county and on
many other violent offenders as well.
In fact, in the investigation of the case of the non-prostitute
who was raped near the avenue, the detective later found
a prostitute who had been raped by the same perpetrator
many months earlier but who hadn't reported the rape to
police. Clearly, if this prostitute had trusted law enforcement
to report her rape at the time it occurred, it's virtually
certain that the subsequent rape of the young woman would
not have happened.
Law enforcement both locally and elsewhere has long practiced
the policies of ignoring a minor crime in order to get
at major crimes.
* In probably the most analogous situation, law enforcement
agencies around the country and more recently local law
enforcement, have seen the wisdom and necessity of refusing
to participate in INS actions aimed at arresting non-documented
immigrants for misdemeanor violations of immigration laws.
This is because police recognize that successful policing
is impossible in an atmosphere where entire segments of
the community fear the police. Police recognize that it
is in their own interest to ignore the minor violations
of immigration laws. In our own community, once law enforcement
stopped joining in INS raids, there's been a complete
and dramatic turn around on the willingness of immigrants
to go to police. Non-documented crime victims and witnesses
who previously refused to communicate with police now
routinely come forward. Only rarely does a non-documented
victim even ask us anymore if police will get them deported.
there are other examples too:
individual cases of serious violent crime, if the
victim of the crime was simultaneously involved in
a minor crime such as drug use or a probation violation,
law enforcement routinely ignores the victim's minor
crime in order the solve the major crime,
drug crimes, law enforcement has a long and widespread
history of teaming up with drug users and minor dealers
in order to get information on major drug criminals.
In exchange, law enforcement frequently grants the
minor perpetrators immunity.
unwillingness to report violent crimes against them to
police, similar to earlier immigrant unwillingness, is
based on a long and pervasive experience of being routinely
arrested by police for the misdemeanor crimes of prostitution
and drug use. In addition, prostitutes both locally and
elsewhere report that, in general, they are treated very
badly by police, and that they are routinely harassed
police in their relationship with prostitutes would prioritize
their role as enforcers of felony violent crime laws and
de-emphasize their role as enforcers of misdemeanor prostitution
and drug crimes, police would immediately begin to reverse
the unwillingness of prostitutes to talk with them, and
prostitutes would begin to provide the crucial information
for solving and preventing violent crimes that your detectives
have said they so badly need. It's also an approach that
has much greater potential for connecting prostitutes
to services that can help them move out of prostitution.
in all cases in which a minor is engaged in prostitution,
the minor should always be treated as a victim of sexual
assault rather than as a perpetrator of misdemeanor prostitution.
traditional law enforcement response to prostitution of
revolving door misdemeanor arrests has failed everywhere,
through all times, to make even a dent in prostitution
and it's concurrent problems. The alternative approach,
we feel, in addition to it's certain benefit to solving
and preventing violent crime against women, also has a
long term potential of curtailing prostitution by getting
at the pimps. Once you begin arresting pimps for their
routine beatings and rapes against the prostitutes, those
violent crime arrests of pimps are going to have a much
bigger effect on curtailing prostitution than the revolving
door misdemeanor arrests of the prostitutes.
Based on these meetings and discussions, a number of aspects
of a fledgling no-cost project has already been implemented.
Other county groups who work with prostitutes have become
involved. And within just a matter of weeks, the project
has begun to bear fruit.
Sgt. Steve Baer, head of SRPD sex crimes unit, along with
detective Litchfield, and Sgt. Greg Contos, head of the
Sheriff's sex crimes unit, along with Dep.Terry White,
drafted roll-call briefing memos which were relayed to
patrol sergeants of their respective departments and from
there passed on to patrol officers. In addition, they
helped draft and then passed out to patrol officers the
attached blue handout to be handed out on the streets
to the prostitutes. As far as we know to this date, SRPD
patrol officers were taking these handouts to prostitutes
on the streets and in at least a dozen instances the prostitutes
responded by giving their names to the officers to be
passed back to the sex crimes detectives.
The principle message on the handout which also includes
resources and safety tips for prostitutes states:
Your Safety Comes First
Recently there has been a series of violent attacks against
women in the area of Santa Rosa Avenue. Your safety is
our first concern. If you know of individuals who are
violent, or if you yourself have been a victim of physical
or sexual violence, no matter what the circumstances,
please call us. We want to help in any way we can.
The county Public Health HIV team sets up on Santa Rosa
Avenue every Tuesday evening to work with prostitutes
on relevant health and safety issues. After we and sex
crimes victim advocate Miriam Gaon talked with the Public
Health team about the project, they also began handing
out the blue handout. They also helped distribute the
SRPD police flyer informing of repeat sex offender and
pimp Paul Andrew Scott who was recently released from
prison. ( This Scott case, by the way, is another case
in which your sex crimes detectives and the DA are near
certain this man will re-offend, another case in which
prostitute willingness to talk to police can provide early
warning and likely prevent a rash of sex crimes this man
could perpetrate throughout the community.)
In addition to the public health team, a number of Santa
Rosa Avenue ex-prostitutes have been involved in the project.
And just last week we met with the DAAC street team that
provides a range of services to the prostitutes on Santa
Rosa Avenue who also expressed interest. These cards are
also being handed out at low cost family planning clinics
frequented by prostitutes.
In addition, we have extensively researched and catalogued
the long term services available in California for prostitutes.
And we have set up a voice mail system for prostitute
crime victims so they can maintain two-way contact with
Having said all this, we probably don't need to belabor
the contradictory effects of last Friday night's raid on
this beginning effort to build trust and communication between
prostitutes and law enforcement.
from the obvious setback to the principle goal, we feel
deeply concerned for any injury that may have resulted to
the credibility of the other community groups who joined
in the effort to get this message out to prostitutes. These
groups depend on the hard won trust they have developed
with the prostitutes over time to carry out their own equally
important missions of health and welfare.
Friday night raid on the prostitutes clearly didn't consider
the damage that could be done in undermining all the work
of these groups too. It seems pretty clear that the units
that carried out the raid knew about the ongoing work and
made no effort to warn anyone. Even if they didn't want
to reveal the plan, they could have easily suggested that
this might not be the best time to do this work.
you to please take some time to consider the benefits of
giving the alternative approach a chance. We look forward
to talking with you on this subject at your earliest convenience.
Marie De Santis Stephanie Serra
Director Victim Advocate
Asst. Sheriff Gary Zanolini
Sgt. Greg Contos, Sheriff's Department
Deputy Terry White
Lt. Brad Marsh, SRPD
Sgt. Steve Baer, SRPD
Det. Eric Litchfield, SRPD
DA Victim Advocate Miriam Gaon
Gloria Young, United Against Sexual Assault
Janette Ethridge, Public Health