Looking for ways to reduce human trafficking, the Colorado Springs Police Department is taking the focus off prostitutes and putting it on the people who pay for their services.
Convicted johns will now have their names, photos and other public records distributed to the media.
Lt. Mark Comte, who oversees the Colorado Springs Human Trafficking Investigation Team, formed last year, says the practice, often called "john-shaming," has been used in police departments across the country, and that those departments also have seen reductions in prostitution. (Springs Police use undercover officers to find johns. Prostitutes found by cops are helped rather than charged if they are found to be victims of trafficking, which Comte says is common.)
Betty Edwards, chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado, says her organization works with local police, who she says have lately busted more pimps and johns. She says john-shaming is a valuable tool.
Still, it's not clear whether it is effective at reducing prostitution. On its website, the National Institute of Justice notes that the only evidence-based practice for combating demand for prostitutes is "john schools" — educational programs that show johns the impact of their actions.
John-shaming is also controversial because some say soliciting a prostitute is a minor crime that shouldn't come with such a high cost. However, prostitution often is not victim-less; prostitutes may be forced or coerced into the business when they are minors and kept in the trade against their will. The Polaris Project, one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the United States, notes that victims are often lured by promises of a high-paying job or a romantic relationship.
The first round of the CSPD's john-shaming effort features Gunnar Burton, 50, of Pueblo; Andrew S. Gieck, 33, of Colorado Springs; Randell H. Chappell, 39, of Colorado Springs; Corey A. Marette, 37, of Colorado Springs; Cameron J. Jones, 26, of Colorado Springs; and Terry N. Talbot, 47, of Pueblo West. CSPD is also posting photos on its Facebook page, at tinyurl.com/ppdyb5u.
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