War on Prostitution

The Times' article on prostitution on El Cajon Boulevard ("Neighborhood War on Hookers Is Paying Off," March 15) and the subsequent letter from Pat Wright ("Prostitution," March 22) point out, when read in sequence, the amazing reality that issues, when clearly articulated as in The Times' article, are nevertheless subject to selective distortion, as appears to have been the intent of the letter. A few salient, and as yet uncontroverted, premises remain unchallenged and these points bear yet another restatement.

While I thank Pat Wright, whom I have never had the privilege of meeting, for suggesting that as principal of a Catholic school I have therefore been elevated to the rank of Catholic theologian, this would come as great surprise to the local Catholic Diocese and even greater surprise to church officials in Rome. Given the furor that sometimes surrounds Catholic theologians in this day and age, I am quite content to exercise my ministry as principal of Blessed Sacrament.

It is coincidental, though welcome, that the quality of life on El Cajon Boulevard has become an issue not only for myself as a Catholic school principal but also for myself as a parent, neighborhood resident, instructor at San Diego State University, member of the College Area Community Council, member of the City Council-sponsored Task Forces on Residential Life and Prostitution, and member of the San Diego Police Department Eastern Division Advisory Committee. For the author of the letter to suggest that my motivation is based solely on an effort to narrow this issue to one of Catholic morality reflects a clear ignorance of life in the College area. The hundreds of citizens who have met, marched and motivated civic officials to respond to the problems in our area have never attempted to narrow the focus to one of morality as based on any religious belief.

What we have said is that community residents, irrespective of the variety of their personal beliefs, have a right to define the quality of life for themselves and for their families. What we have seen, and will continue to see, is that prostitution brings with it a skyrocketing of felonious crimes--narcotics sales (90% of the prostitutes are themselves addicts), armed assaults (90% of the prostitutes have pimps who are armed), and business and residential burglaries (for the most part linked to the increase in narcotics traffic that prostitution brings).

These trends parallel the criminal activities that exist in any area of San Diego County that suffers from the onslaught of prostitution, and these trends will continue to exist and be repeated so long as prostitutes in this county know that they will not be sent to jail. The addition of sorely needed jail space at county facilities will give a clear message that we, as a community, are willing to make the business of prostitution unprofitable. No such disincentive exists now, as prostitutes are ticketed and released--often two or three times in the same evening.

Those who believe that prostitution is a "victimless" crime are ignorant of the deterioration of life that accompanies their trade. Serious crimes decrease in any area when pimps are no longer able to count on high profits made possible by the inability of the county criminal justice system to deal with multiple-offense repeaters.

The "legalization" of prostitution is a nonsense argument put forward by those unwilling to deal with the facts of life--legalization institutionalizes narcotics abuse, criminal assault and attacks on property. Instead of decreasing police time, it counterproductively increases police business. The simpler approach is to make the business of prostitution economically expensive for those who victimize the prostitutes--the pimps, pushers and johns.

Finally, the alleged inconsistency of cracking down on hookers on El Cajon Boulevard while rapes occur in the beach area is a fairly obvious smoke screen--the inconsistency of legalizing sexual conduct in order to decrease the incidence of crimes of sexual violence, of which rape is one, should be obvious to all.

Pat Wright should visit El Cajon Boulevard this month and speak to the senior citizens, the schoolchildren, the university students, the single residents, the business people and the families. What will be evident is that life has taken a clear turn for the better. What will be equally evident is that, if increased jail space is not available soon and the prostitutes, pimps and pushers should return, this community will do what is necessary to drive them out again.

If they should move to Pat Wright's neighborhood, I have no doubt that we will have won a convert to our position. When the negative reality of life replaces the mistaken notion that this is merely a "voluntary activity between consenting adults," Pat Wright will join our side and, just to reassure you, Pat, I will not ask you for your religious beliefs.

BRIAN BENNETT

Blessed Sacrament School

San Diego

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