Prostitution program a costly bust, audit says

The First Offender Prostitution Program, which was launched in 1995, is riddled with flaws, including the failure of having clear goals and an inability to track the outcomes of participants, according to an audit of the program conducted by The City’s Budget Analyst Harvey Rose. And the program’s costs exceed fee revenues, especially costs incurred by the San Francisco Police Department, the audit says.

The program — which is a program in which the District Attorney's Office is a partial partner, along with the Police Department — targets men soliciting prostitution and puts them through a one-day education program that’s supposed to convince them not to do it again. It is also supposed to help women leave prostitution.

Only 60 percent of the men arrested for soliciting prostitution and participating in the program pay the maximum fine of $1,000. For the program to break even each participant would have to pay about $1,908 in fees. In fiscal year 2008-09 the program had a shortfall of nearly $50,000.

The program’s shortcomings don’t stop there. “Neither the District Attorney’s Office nor the San Francisco Police Department have made any formal evaluation of the effectives of the FOPP since FOPP’s implementation in 1995,” the audit says.

In 2005, police arrested an average of 6.6 men in each of the program’s decoy operations, but in 2008 that dropped to four men, resulting in a 41 percent drop from 2005 to 2008.

The audit also notes that “various studies and reports suggest much of the solicitation of prostitution has moved to the internet, the SFPD Vice Unit conducts only approximately four interest operations per year, compared to approximately 100 street –based decoy operations per year.”
 

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