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City ordinance may curb L.A. prostitution

By Edwin Folven, 2/21/2013

Law would allow police to impound suspects’ vehicles

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Suspicious vehicles parked over night and evidence of prostitution activity have prompted residents in the neighborhoods west of Western Avenue and north of 2nd Avenue to report such findings to police.

Over the last few years, the area around the intersection of Western Avenue and 2nd Street has been considered a prostitution-plagued area by law enforcement officials. (photo by Edwin Folven)

The situation has continued to worsen, and the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that allows police to impound vehicles involved in prostitution activity for 30 days. Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, proposed the new law, and said it will help address illegal activity occurring not just around Western Avenue, but throughout the city. The new ordinance will allow officers to impound vehicles belonging to customers who are caught soliciting prostitutes, and cars belonging to pimps or prostitutes if they are using them for illegal activity. While primarily directed at curbing prostitution, a provision in the new law also allows for police to impound vehicles belonging to people involved in illegal dumping.

“We do have a situation around Western Avenue, and we do have an uptick in activity with people doing things they shouldn’t be doing in those neighborhoods,” LaBonge said. “The police department will use the new law to clean up the area. It has a terrible impact on the neighborhood, and this will improve the quality of life.”

Senior lead officer Joseph Pelayo, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Division, said he has received numerous complaints about prostitution occurring in the neighborhoods around Wilton Place and Ridgewood Place, which are approximately four blocks west of Western Avenue. He said prostitutes gather on Western Avenue, and customers pick them up and drive them into the nearby residential neighborhoods. Pelayo said the new ordinance will be an additional tool to address the problem, which has been ongoing for several years. Officers from the Olympic Division Vice Unit patrol the area every weekend, and Palayo said police have been having an impact.

“Every Monday, I get reports from the vice unit about arrests they made over the weekend, and over the past weekend, there were three,” he said. “A year ago, there would have been eight.”

Pelayo added that Western Avenue is considered what police call “tracks” — major thoroughfares that stretch long distances and are known for prostitution. He said the same problem exists on Sunset and Sepulveda boulevards. The prostitution activity previously occurred during the early morning hours, shortly before and after dawn, but is now primarily occurring between midnight and 5 a.m.

“They usually gather in areas where there are mostly businesses and small hotels,” Pelayo said. “What is different [along Western Avenue] is we don’t have a lot of hotels, so they do their business in the Johns’ cars.”

Pelayo and LaBonge said other steps are being taken to address the problem. No left turn signs have been installed along Western Avenue near 2nd Street to discourage people from turning into the residential neighborhoods, and to give police probable cause to stop vehicles. The city is also considering installing more street lighting in the area.

“I think that would have an enormous impact,” Pelayo said.

He encouraged anyone witnessing prostitution activity occurring in their neighborhood to notify police, either by calling 911 if there is an immediate threat of danger, or the LAPD’s non-emergency hotline at (877)ASKLAPD.

 

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