Taking it to the street walkers

April 01, 1994

How do you put the world's oldest profession (street division) out of business? You don't. Police openly admit as much. They say the best fight that can be waged against roadside prostitution is to harangue the hookers and their customers into moving on to the next community.

Baltimore County police have followed this strategy over the past five months as they have intensified efforts to clamp down on the sex trade along Pulaski Highway in the east county. From early last November through late March, police identified 75 prostitutes in the area and arrested 30. They also nabbed 92 customers, 77 of them in a five-day operation last month. At the same time, Baltimore police recorded an unusually high number of solicitation arrests on Pulaski's city side.

The six-mile stretch of Pulaski from Highland Avenue in the city to Rossville Boulevard in the county, jammed with seedy motels, bars and nightclubs, has long been a hotbed of prostitution. However, the problem has worsened during the last 10 years. Local hookers were joined by new faces from around the country, and with the increased prostitution came the predictable climb in drug traffic.

The recent police crackdown has removed some of this sleazy business from public view. But can the pressure be maintained? Don't bet on it. The county police precinct responsible for Pulaski Highway is understaffed by 30 officers. Federal funds will be available to continue a strong police presence in the area, but only through May. After that, police will rely on the occasional special operation to supplement the usual local detail.

Clearly more weapons are needed to fight prostitution on Pulaski. One should be forthcoming this Monday when the Baltimore County Council is expected to pass a padlock law that, like an existing one in the city, would enable police to shut down businesses where illegal activities are happening.

Other government agencies should pitch in, too. The zoning office, for example, could make sure establishments are adhering to county regulations, while the health department could close filthy operations and offer medical help to prostitutes with substance abuse problems and other illnesses. Area business owners and community groups also should do what they can to make the hookers, johns, drug dealers and other criminals feel that doing business on Pulaski is not worth the hassle.

This sort of pressure certainly wouldn't terminate the world's oldest profession, but it would do a lot to bring a new look to Pulaski Highway.

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