World’s oldest profession to seek approval of voters

In November, San Francisco voters will weigh in on a ballot measure that would decriminalize prostitution, but police and city officials say it’s a bad idea.

The Erotic Service Providers Union gathered the 12,000 signatures necessary to put the measure — which would bar authorities from spending money to investigate or prosecute for engaging in prostituion — on the ballot, according to San Francisco Election chief John Arntz.

The measure would hurt The City’s ability to investigate and prosecute sex-trafficking crimes, said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

In 2007, there were more than 1,500 arrests made for prostitution citywide, according to police department data. While the majority occur in the Mission, Northern, Tenderloin and Central police station districts, other neighborhoods also have prostitution activity.

Earlier this month, police broke up an alleged prostitution center in the Sunset District, at a residence known for similar activities in the past.

The house, located on 35th Avenue between Noriega and Ortega streets, has been the subject of numerous reports from neighbors, who complain that its residents operate a prostitution ring, according to Sgt. Steve Quon of the Taraval Police Station. On July 9, police arrested three people on charges related to prostitution, including the female that allegedly manages the home’s illegal operations.

Despite a history of run-ins with the law, inhabitants of the house were able to continue operating, mainly because soliciting prostitution is a misdemeanor offense that carries little economic impact, according to Quon.

“The fine is just a slap on the wrist,” said Quon. “It’s not big enough to deter them from continuing their activities.”

The residents of the house are planning on moving out, Quon said, although he added that more and more prostitution operations are flocking to the Sunset district.

“It’s really too bad,” said Quon. “Places like this really degrade the neighborhood.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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