Class Notes (809,271)
Canada (493,607)
York University (33,561)
Criminology (771)
CRIM 2652 (100)
Anna Pratt (38)
Lecture 5

SOSC 2652 Lecture 5 Readings.docx

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York University
CRIM 2652
Anna Pratt

CRIM 2652 Lecture 5 Readings The limits of the law: a critical examination of prostitution control in three Canadian cities By: Nick Larsen - Prostitution represents one of the more problematic & frustrating socio – legal dilemmas confronting contemporary democratic societies - An important aspect of this dilemma is the contradiction between the liberal idea that prostitution is a victimless crime which ought to be tolerate & the moral disapproval expressed by conservative & religious forces - This relation is complicated by the participation of many feminist groups who argue that prostitution represents the ultimate expression of patriarchal relations - Contemporary western societies have frequently adopted compromise positions where selected aspects of prostitution are prohibited by relatively minor criminal laws but prostitution itself is neither criminal nor fully legal - This unclear status leaves the participants trapped in an uncertain existence – where their activities are tolerated much of the time by they are still vulnerable to police crackdowns & political manipulation - This situation becomes more problematic in the case of street prostitution – which involves public order concerns - Because most street prostitution activities are legally classified as minor offences the police are limited in terms of both the priority which they can assign to prostitution control & their ability to deal effectively with street prostitution - Recent changes to Canadian laws on prostitution provide an excellent illustration of what characterizes prostitution control - These changes popularly referred to as Bill C-49 represents one of the toughest approaches to prostitution control in North America - Evaluations have concluded that the new law has not been effective at its two primary aims: reducing the overall numbers of prostitutes & controlling the levels of nuisance associated with street prostitution - The new law has been only marginally successful at its third goal of ensuring equal enforcement against male customer s & female prostitutes Background – events precipitating Bill C-49 - Prior to December 1985, street prostitution in Canada was covered primarily by section 195.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code which prohibited “soliciting for the purposes of prostitution” - Although this law was considered satisfactory by most police officers & politicians several anomalies were problematic from a feminist perspective - Ex. Some courts limited the definition of prostitute to females only & so male prostitutes could not be convicted under the section, the law did not apply to male customers since only prostitutes could ‘solicit for the purpose of prostitution’ in the eyes of Canadian courts - Under increasing pressure from feminist & civil libertarian groups the courts began to chip away at some of these anomalies & also resist the definition of soliciting - The major court decision that ultimately made the law almost impossible to enforce occurred when the supreme court of Canada ruled that soliciting was not an offence unless it was “pressing & persistent” - This caused an uproar because the decision gave prostitutes almost unlimited rights to operate wherever the pleased as long as they didn’t physically attack potential customers - Although this argument was probably exaggerated there was little doubt that the decision had led to an increase in the number of prostitutes on the streets of major Canadian cities - While the police departments were undoubtedly concerned about the increasing levels of conflict over street prostitution some evidence suggests that they were also motivated by organizational concerns - Police traditionally relied on prostitutes as informers and this decision deprived them of this source of information by reducing their power to pressure prostitutes into informant roles - On a positive note – it reduced the power of pimps & many prostitutes began turning their pimps over to the police & agreed to testify against them in court The implementation of Bill C-49, the communicating law - Bill C-49 was proclaimed into law on December 28, 1985 amidst some of the most bitter controversy ever engendered with respect to Canadian criminal legislation - Referred to as the "cormmunicating law," this legislation effectively criminalized all public communication for the purposes of prostitution - Although most Canadian police forces and many residents' and business groups welcomed the new law, many other groups argued that the law was neither necessary nor likely to solve the problems associated with street prostitution - many civil rights groups expressed fears that the law's provisions would lead to overkill and might result in innocent people being convicted on the basis of a "wink or a nod." - police forces attempted to meet these concerns by adopting enforcement policies designed to ensure that overkill did not happen - The debate over Bill C-49 continued, and by late 1986 it was clear that it was not the definitive solution that many people had expected - Once prostitutes overcame their fear of the law, they quickly developed new strategies to cope with it, including not discussing anything until inside the potential customer's car and waiting for the customer to make the first offer Although the Vancouver police appeared satisfied with the law, many community groups argued that it was clearly a sham - This was particularly true of the Mount Pleasant area, a working class neighbourhood near the city centre. - The Vancouver Police Department had stopped responding to prostitution-related calls from the area, and many residents became convinced that the Vancouver police were using Mount Pleasant as a "dumping ground" for street prostitution because of its lower social and economic status.' - The Task Force experimented with several harassment tactics and organized periodic blitzes against prospective customers - Although the Task Force was reasonably effective, its tactics were not dependent on Bill C-49, and could have been used before the bill was implemented - Further, the activities of the Task Force displaced large numbers of prostitutes into the Downtown Eastside area, including the respectable working class area known as Strathcona - The scenario which developed in Strathcona differed significantly - instead of adopting confrontational tactics, residents entered into negotiations with the prostitutes in an attempt to reach a solution. - The prostitutes responded by agreeing not to work near schools and negotiating a "no go" map outlining areas where prostitutes would not work - This map was distributed to prostitutes working in the area, who were asked to avoid the indicated areas - This approach was reinforced when the police became involved in negotiations between prostitutes and residents, and even suggested that patrol personnel would tolerate some prostitution if the prostitutes stayed away from schools and residential areas - Patrol officers were directed to steer prostitutes back toward commercial streets if they were found in residential areas - If a prostitute seemed determined to remain in a "no go" area, the police would harass her and even park a marked police cruiser nearby "until she got the message” - although there continues to be significant amounts of prostitution activity in the Strathcona area, there is remarkably little conflict - In summary, it is clear that the Bill C-49 was not effective in reducing the number of street prostitutes in Vancouver. Although it did give the police force a somewhat greater ability to control the areas in which prostitutes worked, and thus helped quiet public controversy, harassment tactics using traffic codes and other noncriminal laws were far more effective - The most effective solution, however, involved negotiation and other "social work" tactics practiced by the police and residents in Strathcona. While these tactics did not appear to reduce the numbers of prostitutes, they did minimize conflict - Two further points need to be made about Bill C-49 in Vancouver - The first involves the gender imbalance among the people charged with communicating for the purposes of prostitution - Feminist groups and spokespersons for the prostitute community consistently criticised the Vancouver police for concentrating on female prostitutes to the virtual exclusion of male prostitutes and male customers - The second point centres on violence against prostitutes - Unfortunately, the law appeared to correlate with increased numbers of assaults against prostitutes and several unsolved murders - complained that the new law had increased the amount of violence against prostitutes because it forced them to enter cars without carefully screening the occupants - the practice of seeking area restrictions further contributed to the problem by forcing prostitutes to work in less safe areas, such as poorly lit back lanes, and to adopt riskier practices such as hitchhiking - These practices were dangerous since prostitutes were unable to screen their customers thoroughly The communicating law in Toronto - The initial implementation of Bill C-49 in Toronto appeared to involve much more planning and coordination than had been evident in Vancouver - The most important policy directive to emerge from the consultation process involved the decision to concentrate on customers - Toronto Police Department adopted a stated goal of "dry[ing] up the supply of customers" and announced that it would cooperate with social service programs designed to help prostitutes change their lifestyles - The Police Department quickly demonstrated a pattern of arresting more customers than its counterpart in Vancouver - Although prostitutes initially remained on the streets in large numbers, they quickly left once it became clear that police activity was scaring clients away. - The Police Department claimed that its strategy of targeting customers was effective because middle class customers (often with families) were much more easily deterred than prostitutes, most of whom already had long criminal records. - However, many of the prostitutes who temporarily vacated the streets moved into escort agencies & this increased the number of pimps and their ability to dominate the prostitution trade - The police were forced to place increased emphasis on escort agencies, and this precipitated a gradual increase in street prostitution - The prostitutes adopted new tactics to cope with police surveillance – prostitutes becoming displaced from one area to another - In addition to the general ineffectiveness of the law, it is also evident that Bill C-49 has caus
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