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Surveillance Society: Operation Smapshot.
August 26, 2004 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Winnipeg Police Service's Operation Snapshot: Winnipeg is the first Canadian city to post pictures of johns picking up hookers on their website: "The goal is to discourage customers of street prostitution in these areas. It is NOT to publicly identify individuals. These are random video clips of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the areas known to be frequented by sex trade workers and their customers. The Winnipeg Police Service acknowledges that not everyone depicted in these clips are sex trade workers or their customers. As a result the faces of all persons and the license plates of all vehicles have been blurred out." However, at least one activist is posting licence plate numbers of johns: "Rev. Lehotsky, of the New Life Ministries, said some people complain he is violating their privacy, but he doesn't have much sympathy. "People have privacy concerns," he said. "But I say, if you're pulling your weenie out in a laneway, you've forfeited your right to privacy." ('Police 'john-cam' riles critics', Winnipeg Free Press, August 26, 2004)
posted by Esco757 (50 comments total)

 
From the activist link:

"Some of these women have TB and you don't even need sexual contact to get that!"

Words to live by.
posted by RubiX^3 at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2004


Pick up a hooker and Hosehead here will tear your face off.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2004


These people are assholes. I've got a friend who's a prostitute who got busted recently in a sting operation, and I fail to see what threat to society she poses.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2004


As if the windchill or the mosquitoes (depending on the season) wouldn't dissuade one from pulling one's weenie out in a Winnipeg laneway.

On preview: amen, Pseudoephedrine. I hope she works as safely as possible, though.
posted by stonerose at 10:55 AM on August 26, 2004


Windchill: no kidding. It's official: Winnipeg has had its coldest summer since Environment Canada began keeping records, way back in 1872. The coldest summer in 133 friggin' years.
posted by Esco757 at 10:58 AM on August 26, 2004


APZ 230 - Grey wagon - 2 guys & 2 hookers & double deal? 10/9 4:45am

They should call that a "Lehotsky."
posted by eastlakestandard at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2004


These people are assholes. I've got a friend who's a prostitute who got busted recently in a sting operation, and I fail to see what threat to society she poses.

Maybe you'd feel differently if you were someone living near a whore stroll area.
posted by jonmc at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2004


Is "Morals Unit" the Canadian equivalent of the U.S.'s "Vice Squad"? That's so...Canadian - and I mean that in the most benign way possible.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2004


2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
posted by matteo at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2004


every week the city of St. Paul, MN post photos of the Johns and the ladies they frequent on their web site
posted by bradknapp at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2004


jonmc> I live in Kingston, Ontario, which is a combination tourism / prison-industry city. We've got prostitutes all over the place. Doesn't bother me so long as they aren't harassing everyone who walks by.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:21 AM on August 26, 2004


If I lived near a whore stroll area I think I'd open a small tea/coffee/condom shop to make sure they had hot drinks, and protection.

I loves me some whores.
posted by longbaugh at 11:41 AM on August 26, 2004


pseudoephedrine: go up to Hunts Point in the Bronx, where it's crawling with hookers of every gender (most of them drug-addicted, many uderage) and variety servicing truckers openly by the side of city streets. That's what the law-abiding citizens of that area have to deal with.

There are plenty of arguments for legalizing prostitution, but don't act like anyone who'd be upset at living around shit like that is some kind of bluenose.
posted by jonmc at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2004


D 46407 Pickup truck - behind a Furby house - 9/15 - 4:20am
Common, best way picking up your furby for a date is a pickup truck.


jonmc> I live in Kingston, Ontario, which is a combination tourism / prison-industry city. We've got prostitutes all over the place. Doesn't bother me so long as they aren't harassing everyone who walks by.
I’ve seen many known prostitution sites in California and they have their place. At first glance I don't agree with the website that is posting license plates. If this is similar thing I witnessed years ago with a group of cheap track homes becoming brothels. Then I can understand the frustration the neighborhood is going through.

Think back when you were a kid and you played with your friends in your neighborhood streets. Now imagine several cars a minute driving by your home, see the frustration.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2004


if you're pulling your weenie out in a laneway, you've forfeited your right to privacy

That's the most creative interpretation of the 4th Amendment I've ever heard.
posted by turaho at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2004


Turaho, we don't have a fourth amendment in Canada.
posted by teg at 12:18 PM on August 26, 2004


4th Amendment
Is there a Canadian law here that would protect a citizen here?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:20 PM on August 26, 2004


Privacy Act? (text of act found here)
posted by sleslie at 12:33 PM on August 26, 2004


Even if it were in the United States, the 4th amendment wouldn't apply. The 4th amendment limits what government can do; the individual posting license plates appears to be a private citizen.

Sounds like citizen activism to me. Any private citizens find a peaceful and legal method to effect change instead of petitioning the government, that's usually a good thing.

Of course, I still don't understand why its illegal for two consenting adults to exchange money for sex.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:34 PM on August 26, 2004


See also: St. Paul Prostitution Arrest Photos.
posted by neckro23 at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2004


As a St. Paul native, I've always found the photo posting a good solid jolt of realism to those who think prostitutes=Julia Roberts, johns=Richard Gere.
posted by GaelFC at 1:00 PM on August 26, 2004


I still don't understand why its illegal for two consenting adults to exchange money for sex.

Doesn't baby jesus kill a puppy every time consenting adults exchange money for sex?

On preview: those St. Paul pics are incredibly depressing. It's hard to believe some of those people are in their early 30s.
posted by psmealey at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2004


Of course, I still don't understand why its illegal for two consenting adults to exchange money for sex.

As far as I understand it, it's solicitation for prostitution which is illegal in Canada. Prostitution itself is not illegal.
posted by Esco757 at 1:30 PM on August 26, 2004


>Maybe you'd feel differently if you were someone living near a whore stroll area.

Maybe everyone would feel differently if the trade were legal and these women had stores to work in rather than streets.

Nobody likes street peddlers of anything. That includes white vans selling speakers, people selling old chairs on the street, and people selling hotdogs outside someone's home.

Why make just a few people happy when everyone can be, instead?
posted by shepd at 2:06 PM on August 26, 2004


(okay, so I just noticed that bradknapp beat me to it. sosumi.)
posted by neckro23 at 2:13 PM on August 26, 2004


Shepd's exactly right. In Canada, keeping a "bawdy house" is a slightly more serious offense than merely solicitation (I understand it's the same in most of the States), and it's easier to enforce, which means that girls walk the street because it's harder to get caught. Legalise or decriminalise prostitution, and you'd keep them out of sight.

I'm not saying streetwalking's not a nuisance, but that shouldn't make prostitutes or johns legitimate targets for harassment by vigilantes or police.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2004


I wonder, since the officers feel it's fine to post these pictures, would it be fine for me to go about filiming the police officers taking these pictures, but covertly (unlike COPS)?

Of course, I'd make sure to edit it so only the most juicy police mistakes end up on the website. :-D
posted by shepd at 2:24 PM on August 26, 2004


My corner/street is a hooker infested area. They are an obtrusive and ugly addition to the neightborhood. There is plenty of extra traffic. We find panties and condoms in the street. The women are crazy and drug- and life-addled. these are not girls working there way through college, these are crack whores. They yell at passing cars, pedestrians, nothing.

The police have said that arresting them does nothing -- the charge is so light that they are soon out and back to work. And it seems difficult for the police to even arrest them -- the girls are on the street only minutes before being picked up again.

I'm all for someone's right to do exactly as they please with and to their body, but I'd rather not have whores working my block.
posted by john m at 2:39 PM on August 26, 2004


that shouldn't make prostitutes or johns legitimate targets for harassment by vigilantes or police.

Vigilantes? I guess you mean the people posting license numbers. Because I had a vision of the worst comic book ever.
posted by yerfatma at 3:02 PM on August 26, 2004


The problem here is not prostitution, it is poor, drug and alcohol-addled people *concentrating* in an area.

Several realities of prostitution should be recognized. First of all, middle and upper class prostitution is not a public problem. It can either be legalized or just ignored, as neither their prostitutes or johns ever get arrested, except when they are terribly indiscreet. Its only rationale for illegality should be recognized as tittilation of the moralistic.

Second, that there is, and will always be a demand for prostitution among the poor. But poverty alone does not mean that drug abuse, alcoholism or disease are acceptable among prostitutes, any more than they would be in employees of a restaurant in a poor neighborhood. This situation, likewise, is recognized in places that have legal prostitution.

Third, prostitution is subdivided in several ways. By social class, as previously mentioned; but also logically, by what type of sexual activity is taking place. Males receiving oral sex is fast, no room rental is needed. Penetration sex needs a *place* for the act, and usually takes longer.

So, ideally, legal prostitution needs to take all of this into account. Class-based penetration prostitution should be based on location, which the wealthy and middle class take care of themselves. Poor penetration prostitution should be under a heavily supervised health and safety regime, as it is in Amsterdam.

Lastly, cross-class quick oral sex for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, *should almost* be drive-thru. In much like the way it is done today, it must be on the route that commuting customers take, except having something akin to roadside stalls and licensed prostitutes, so that the customers must exit their vehicle (for safety reasons), present payment, maybe even to a cashier, and be issued a condom. Properly managed, it could be as fast and safe as a vehicle emissions test.
posted by kablam at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2004


I have a question for Rev. L. If someone were to release pictures of Priests having "the sex" with "the boys", he'd not only think it's ok, but he'd be rejoicing to the Lord that the world know's who's bad and who's good, right?
posted by shepd at 3:48 PM on August 26, 2004


The Winnipeg Police Service acknowledges that not everyone depicted in these clips are sex trade workers or their customers.

WTF?
posted by Quartermass at 3:49 PM on August 26, 2004


Well, they throw in some old Cinemax clips to keep people watching. Otherwise they'd owe the advertisers for lost eyeballs.
posted by yerfatma at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2004


"Lastly, cross-class quick oral sex for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, *should almost* be drive-thru."

Would you like that super-sized?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2004


I was wondering if a shake came with those fries. If so can I have mine Super-Sized?
posted by betaray at 5:57 PM on August 26, 2004


I'm not saying streetwalking's not a nuisance, but that shouldn't make prostitutes or johns legitimate targets for harassment by vigilantes or police.

Nuisance?

In places like Hunts Point it's more or less destroyed the neighborhood. But hey, it's only poor people living there. Never let them get in the way of some jerk's right to pay for a knob shine or god orbid offend someone's sensibilities.
posted by jonmc at 6:08 PM on August 26, 2004


Dude, pulling out the "poor people" card is a pretty lame rebuttal. I mean, it's not like most of these prostitutes are rich either. What do you expect them to do, and where do you expect them to go, and how does arresting them accomplish any of that?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2004


Then answer the question posed. Why should the law-abiding citizens in those areas have to passively put up with the streetwalkers and all the crap they bring with them?

Because they live in a shitty neighborhood and have no political power?

You could say that prostitution should be legal and perhaps you'd be right, but as of now it's illegal and the people in those neighborhoods have as much right to complain about whores on their front stoop as anyone else. Never mind pimps recruiting local girls and runaways and drug dealers infesting the area.

Besides, if prostitution were made legal, it would be heavily regulated, and I doubt that disease ridden drug addicts would be liscenced to sell themselves, which means they'd go right back to doing it illegaly.

What do you expect them to do, and where do you expect them to go, and how does arresting them accomplish any of that?

So people should just passively accept all the crap that comes with living in a prostitution infested area?

Sorry about the crack-whore screwing in your hallway folks, this parlor liberal would be offended if we busted 'em.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2004


NTM, people talk about the "high-class"call girl services and how they're different from streetwalkers.

Yeah, they're not standing on a streetcorner, but who the fuck do you think runs those businesses, the Boy Scouts? And where do the girls come from, Home Depot?
posted by jonmc at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2004


Cool, I'm a liberal now? Wacky. Thought I had to fill out a card, be pelted with some vitriol and all that. Dude, trying to present yourself as a man of the people here just isn't working for you.

But yeah, decriminalise it, if not legalise it. Let people run brothels so the prostitutes aren't wandering alone at night on the streets, or bothering those "law-abiding" citizens by existing out in public. Let 'em organise into mutual support networks without having to worry about the cops getting ahold of membership lists (the pro I know who was busted is involved in organising these things). Let them be able to go to the police and say "My pimp is beating me" without getting busted themselves, or brushed off because they're whores, who"law-abiding citizens" don't care about. Make it legal so that it isn't automatically connected to other illegal activity, so that a pimp has a reason not to be dealing his girls drugs.

So people should just passively accept all the crap that comes with living in a prostitution infested area?

You make it sound like they're cockroaches. Anyhow, answering a question with a question is bad form. They _should_ accept it, unless they're willing to contribute or work in some way towards getting rid of it, or at the very least, propose some solution themselves. Trying to sweep it up in some ill-thought-out vigilante NIMBY scheme isn't "getting rid of it". The prostitutes will still be poor, and they'll still have to hook, and they'll still be exploited by pimps. All that'll change is that it happens one street over. That's not a real solution. So, I ask again, what are these people doing to get rid of street-walking in their neighbourhood, besides griping about it? What's their solution to this problem?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2004


First of all, if it weren't for drug addiction, the number of prostitutes would dwindle radically. A large chunk of the rest of them are underage runaways.

I don't know how it is in Canada, but back in the late 80's and early nineties you couldn't walk within a 5 block radius of Port Authority without getting propositioned by a score of hookers. According to you, law enforcement shouldn't do anything about it. And citizens might be a little reluctant to deal with an armed pimp, as you might imagine. So they should just lay back and live with it?

Dude, trying to present yourself as a man of the people here just isn't working for you.

I don't present myself as anything. I just state my opinions based on what I see, hear and read. You want to find a snide way to dismiss me that's up to you.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 PM on August 26, 2004


They should work on ways to get prostitutes off the streets and into safer situations is what they should do, for the umpteenth time. Setting up rehab clinics and needle exchanges would be a good start. Shelters for runaways would be another good thing to pursue. Moving from streetwalking to brothels through laxer police enforcement of bawdy house laws would be another improvement.

And yeah, law enforcement shouldn't be throwing people in jail just because you don't like them, or are annoyed by them, or how they make a living. In Kingston, I walk past a large number of homeless people who bug me for cash and cigarettes. I don't really like most of them (I get along with a few of them all right), but I don't go down to the police HQ and demand the cops drag them off. Because, what would it do? These people don't have any other options - you throw in jail, and when they get out, they'll just go back to doing it again. It's the same with prostitutes. You either deal with the reason these women are hooking and the things that make it dangerous and anti-social, or else there's no point in just arresting them. You're still not saying what we should do about it, or how arresting them makes the situation any better.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2004


mr_crash_davis and betaray: actually, the comparison with working at a fast food place is not a bad one. The best example would be oral sex only prostitutes that service mostly businessmen coming home from work; or homosexual gathering places in public parks for the same purpose. It is happening already, but if you can, you try to optimize it for "public good".
You want to protect both the prostitutes and their customers from unwanted violence or exposure to disease, you don't want a traffic jam, and you want to expedite the process so it is quick, efficient, and has "hours of business" that don't interfere with the neighborhood.
Let's say the "prostitution area" only operates legally from 4-8pm on weekdays. Drivers park their vehicles, then select a prostitute who accompanies them to a cashier. Cashier takes payment and credits account of prostitute. Then both retire to a privacy booth. Both leave privacy booth together. Customer gets in car and leaves. Security staff are nearby, as are health workers. Prostitutes are licensed and receive free frequent health checks. Heck, you can even have handicapped access.

This reduces "public prostitution" by about, say, 60%. The other 40%, or "penetration prostitution", can be managed like existing legal prostitution schemes elsewhere.

Any remaining (poor, addicted, diseased, underage) illegal prostitutes remaining need institutionalization of one or more kinds. And those who would use their services are definitely targetable by the police, for any number of reasons.
posted by kablam at 7:49 PM on August 26, 2004


Look, there are arguments for and against legalizing prostitution (I'm for), but that's really beside the point when the cops are taking pictures of suspects and publishing them on the Internet in order to shame and intimidate everyone else into compliance. Would this be acceptable if it were robbery, tax evasion, or disorderly conduct arrestees instead (not convicted, not even indicted, but merely arrested)? How is this not tainting a defendant with the stain of presumed guilt in the public's mind, obligatory disclaimers to the contrary?
posted by skoosh at 10:28 PM on August 26, 2004


"Let people run brothels so the prostitutes aren't wandering alone at night on the streets, or bothering those 'law-abiding' citizens by existing out in public."

Wow. You're still not getting it.

Let me start by stating that I support legalization (and licensing) of prostitution so it can be regulated like any other business. The existence of the sex trade doesn't bother me. But you are way off by trying to imply that people who don't want this in their front yards are somehow intolerant. Please. There are lots of other activities people don't want in their front yards either; that's why legitimate businesses have to follow zoning laws.

"Let them be able to go to the police and say 'My pimp is beating me' without getting busted themselves, or brushed off because they're whores, who 'law-abiding citizens' don't care about."

There you go again. What makes you think law-abiding citizens don't care what happens to them? Street hookers, at least in our area, look terribly poor and terribly messed up. I can't speak for others, but I want to see them happy and healthy, and giving blow jobs for crack in a car parked in front of my house is not likely to be the road to happiness for them. I want to see the business legalized and regulated so they can work in a safe environment.

But it's also certain that having them do this on our street is not the road to happiness for us, either, and it is not a safe environment for anyone involved. We are the ones who have to clean up the condoms and used syringes, who have to see sexual acts and drug deals happening right in our front yards, who have to call 911 multiple times a week to get the drug dealers and prostitutes to stop messing up the neighborhood.

Your argument falls completely flat when you realize that these people are not behaving in a way that is even slightly socially acceptable. "Socially acceptable" would mean picking up the freaking syringes instead of tossing them willy-nilly. It would mean doing the sex acts out of view of the neighborhood children. It would mean not bringing guns and drugs into a neighborhood (btw, I believe that drugs, at least to some extent, should be legalized as well. By "drugs" here I mean the illegal drug trade and all the antisocial crap that comes along with it) full of families and children.

Prostitution should be legalized and regulated, but currently, it is not legal, and those who support it are de facto supporting violence, drug addiction, and making our neighborhood a worse place to exist. Given that situation, I daresay that those who are supporting this way of things should be punished. Fine, you have a friend who is a pro. That doesn't make the current state of things defensible. Work to change them but don't tell me I should just let my (lower-income minority) neighborhood be destroyed.

"You make it sound like they're cockroaches. "

This is simply inflammatory.

"And yeah, law enforcement shouldn't be throwing people in jail just because you don't like them, or are annoyed by them, or how they make a living."

And so is this. There is a wide wide gulf separating "I am annoyed at the panhandler who asks me for money every day" and "I had to clean used condoms off my front steps today and I'm tired of it." Please. One is annoyance and one is a situation that rapidly becomes intolerable.

On preview:

"Would this be acceptable if it were robbery, tax evasion, or disorderly conduct arrestees instead (not convicted, not even indicted, but merely arrested)? How is this not tainting a defendant with the stain of presumed guilt in the public's mind, obligatory disclaimers to the contrary?"

Yes, I agree that this is a problem -- though, arrests are public record and there are plenty of people who are displayed in the media after their arrests, and are later proven innocent. It's not as if this is the only time something like that would happen. The Winnipeg Police are being awfully careful by blurring the faces -- it's the other guy who's not doing that.

Of course, it's legal to photograph people in a public place, so there you go.
posted by litlnemo at 10:55 PM on August 26, 2004


Something tells me that photos of cops and mayoral personnel caught in the act probably don't end up making it to the web site.

Call it a hunch.
posted by clevershark at 11:05 PM on August 26, 2004


I dunno about Winnipeg, but I always tell people that it was the law in Vancouver (all of BC? (all of Canada?)) that having sex for money was not illegal, but talking about it (in the propositional sense) was. Anyone want to back me up on this, or did I just dream it, and am responsible for years of misinformation?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:34 PM on August 26, 2004


Stavros> Soliciting prostitution is illegal. Having sex for money isn't. That's how escort operations work - you pay for a "date" and if it ends in sex, well, that's your business.

litlnemo> What exactly is your solution to this problem, and how does it differ from the one I've proposed? The only thing that seems to be substantively different is that you're outraged that I accused someone of being intolerant for wanting to arrest prostitutes rather than deal with the underlying social issues which force women into prostitution and street-walking. I honestly don't know how to reply. You're angry because I'm angry? Great. I appreciate that my opinion and emotional state are so important to you. But, what exactly _do_ you hope to accomplish by arresting prostitutes? For that matter, what do you hope happens from their pictures being posted to a website? Because so far as I can see, both are doing jack shit at this point.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:05 AM on August 27, 2004


I already said what my solution was. Legalization and regulation with zoning like any other business. But that's a tough sell in most North American communities.

My point is that you are being awfully clueless in your knee-jerk defense of prostitution here.

You started this off by saying "I fail to see what threat to society she poses." If she never plies her trade in a residential neighborhood in full view of the residents (this has happened in our neighborhood -- and by "plies trade," I mean that prostitutes have actually been caught doing sex acts while sitting at bus stops or on someone's front rockery!), if she never leaves used condoms and syringes in the streets and yards of the community (this has happened in our neighborhood), if she does not bring violence and addiction and the other antisocial activities that go along with street prostitution to our community (this, also, sadly, has happened here), then she is a responsible member of the community and poses no threat. May she be safe and prosperous.

But this is obviously not always the case, as those of us in certain parts of our Seattle neighborhood know all too well -- and, yes, you needed to get thumped with the clue stick for implying that anyone who objects to these activities is intolerant and doesn't care about the poor. Yes, the underlying social issues need to be dealt with, but I think that expecting poor neighborhoods that have been ravaged by this sort of thing to just tolerate it because prostitutes don't have any better jobs is bullshit.

kablam's responses here have made a lot of sense. Yours -- not so much. Saying that people have to accept it unless they work for change? That makes no sense. Sure, working for change is good, but you know, a lot of people are just busy trying to survive and keep their neighborhood worth living in -- do they have to clean condoms off their steps all the time too?
posted by litlnemo at 1:49 AM on August 27, 2004


(The following is tasteless, low-brow, and Not Safe For Work. You have been warned.)

And where do the girls come from, Home Depot?
posted by NortonDC at 7:35 PM on August 29, 2004


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