City Council Passes Ordinances to Fight Sex Trafficking

Cincinnati City Council on Sept. 17 unanimously passed two ordinances to fight Cincinnati’s growing sex trafficking problem.

Cincinnati City Council on Sept. 17 unanimously passed two ordinances to fight Cincinnati’s growing sex trafficking problem.

Sponsored by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, one ordinance increases civil fines for using motor vehicles in solicitation or prostitution from $500 to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $2,500 for each subsequent offense. The other ordinance funnels fines for those offenses into a prostitution fund that will cover anti-prostitution efforts, including investigation and prosecution of sex trafficking crimes and programs that reduce prostitution.

That pool of money is actually the revival of a fund established by Councilman David Crowley in the early 2000s, Simpson said: “We’re really looking forward to reinstituting that — there’s a lot of work that needs to happen and those fines will go a small ways toward helping in those efforts.”

Simpson has been active on sex trafficking issues. Early this summer, she supported a controversial project that blocked off large sections of McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine and Fairview.

While many residents in the area applauded the blockade, saying it reduced activity from pimps and sex workers in the immediate area, other residents said it caused transportation problems, created a stigma around the area and had little effect on the overall occurrence of prostitution there. Residents of other neighborhoods, including Price Hill and Camp Washington, reported an increase in prostitution after the barricades went up and said sex workers were simply moving from McMicken to their communities.

The barricades came down in July.

Besides barricades, harsher penalties for pimps and johns, publicizing names of sex trafficking offenders and other measures have been floated as possible responses to sex trafficking. One that has gained traction recently is a special “prostitution docket” in Hamilton County focused on reducing sex trafficking by reverting sex workers who also face addiction issues to treatment programs. Many across the political spectrum, including Simpson, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and others, support the idea, but with treatment programs like the Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment House in the West End stretched to the limit, more programs will likely be needed. In the meantime, Simpson says, the newest ordinances are a way to chip away at the problem.

“This is a great way to ensure that we’re continually sending the message that this kind of activity is not permitted in our city and beginning the work of ending demand for these services.”

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