Phoenix Approves New Prostitution Fines To Benefit Victims

By Christina Estes
Published: Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 8:32am
Updated: Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 9:29am

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Shawn Severud
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Shawn Severud told City Council members that Phoenix should legalize, regulate and tax prostitution.

Phoenix leaders unanimously approved new fines against people who solicit prostitution. The money is meant to help victims of human trafficking.

First time offenders still have the option of going to what’s often called “Johns School”, an eight-hour diversion program instead of jail. But "Johns" convicted two or more times will face fines between $2,000 and $2,500.

“We want to make this the most unpleasant place to get caught engaging in this just horrendous activity,” said Councilman Jim Waring, who chairs the city’s human trafficking task force.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, resident Shawn Severud told members Phoenix should legalize and tax prostitution.

“By doing so we will make it a safe and regulated industry in which sex workers can feel safe to report crimes to the appropriate authorities,” he said. “And provide visibility to law enforcement to prevent those truly heinous crimes such as sex trafficking.”

Severud called prostitution a "victimless crime," but Waring said it’s a myth to believe people consciously choose to become prostitutes. He shared the story of a woman in her 40s who was forced into sex trafficking at the age of 14.

“I think it was her aunt and uncle sold her for drugs. And she’s like these adults did all this stuff to me. She goes, ‘They were adults. What were they thinking? I was a kid,’” he said. “It was really hard to hear that.

The fines will go toward the city’s new anti-human trafficking fund to benefit Starfish Place, a long term housing project for victims of trafficking.

According to a city news release, the Phoenix Police Department’s Vice Unit rescued 62 juveniles who were victims of human trafficking in 2017.

During that same year, police conducted 15 operations involving buyers of sex and arrested 64 men. Police also conducted a store front massage parlor “sting” operation and made an additional 86 arrests.

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