SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A stern message came from the San Francisco Police Department for people coming to the city to solicit sex workers. The police department has a new enforcement strategy to sex work from happening on Capp Street.
“They need to know that Capp Street and this city is off-limits. We are not going to tolerate this behavior,” SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar said.
Lazar says SFPD is finding success with a new decoy operation where a female cop goes out to Capp Street undercover as a sex worker and issues citations to potential clients or “Johns.”
“A lot of sex workers that are on Capp between 18th and 22nd Street… A lot of traffic… A lot of people out… A lot of noise,” he said.
Lazar was describing what he saw last Friday night when he walked Capp Street. The San Francisco Police Department is cracking down on Johns coming to Capp Street. The most recent decoy operation took place on Feb. 15. Police issued seven citations.
“Two from Half Moon Bay, one from Palo Alto, four from San Francisco came to San Francisco… Came to Capp Street to solicit sex workers. It’s going to be hard for a John to explain to their family why they received a citation on Capp Street,” he said.
Once a John is cited, they are referred to the first offender prostitution program. Lazar explained what that entails.
“Where they allow individuals who solicit sex workers to go to a class and pay a fine. That’s an option, but sometimes we find individuals have an arrest warrant. In that case we bring them in under arrest,” he said.
Police say so far, no citations have been given to sex workers.
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“These are human trafficking victims for the most part,” Lazar said. “We are going to focus on getting resources to these individuals to see if we can get them out of this lifestyle and stop this behavior, but we are thinking of every possible option to stop what’s going on there.”
Barriers have been put up on Capp Street as another strategy to prevent Johns from cruising the street for sex workers. Supervisor Hilary Ronen’s office efforted that after receiving several complaints from people who live there.
Many of the barriers put in place have been run over by drivers, so the city plans to put stronger barriers out within the next week. Meanwhile, the police department has motorcycle patrols out there issuing traffic citations.
“We’ve issued approx 30 citations since last Friday night,” Lazar said. “We have our traffic officers on motorcycles out there now and we are going to continue to do traffic enforcement.”
People who live on Capp Street have also complained about pimps. SFPD plans to crack down on them as well.
“If they are there, they’re loitering. There are laws on the books on that. But they can be aggressive, they can be violent, armed. We are going to address that as well. If there is a violation of a law there we are going to address it,” Lazar said.
In four weeks, the city will continue to evaluate these efforts to deter sex work on Capp Street to see if any other solutions can be presented.