Santa Ana has finally hit on tactics designed to cut down on prostitution on heavily traveled Harbor Boulevard that even the ACLU, traditionally a foe on the issue, approves.
Parking and stopping cars will be prohibited along Harbor from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., the period when streetwalkers generally solicit business.
“It’s very different from what they (city officials) tried to do earlier, which was to ban people from the streets,” said Rebecca Jurado, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.
“Courts have held on numerous occasions that it is within the cities’ authority to deal with traffic problems,” she said. “What they (city officials) tried to do before was beyond their authority.”
The City Council voted 5 to 0 Monday night to bar stopping at night on Harbor Boulevard between Warner and Westminster avenues, according to City Atty. Edward J. Cooper.
The council was responding to pleas from merchants and residents, who have long complained about prostitutes flagging down cars and soliciting business along the boulevard at all hours.
Police say Harbor Boulevard is a regular stop for professional prostitutes known as “circuit girls” who travel from city to city seeking out busy thoroughfares in high-income areas. Authorities say Harbor became popular after the 1984 Olympics and has been on the circuit ever since.
When the professional “circuit girls” are in town, police say it is not unusual for 30 to 40 prostitutes to gather on one street corner on Harbor Boulevard, brazenly shouting and waving at passing vehicles.
Fast-food merchants along Harbor have complained that prostitutes often hide from police in their restaurants and scare other customers away. Homeowners who live just off Harbor have complained of finding condoms and syringes in their front yards.
Cooper, the city attorney, said the resolution also was designed to relieve traffic congestion caused by men stopping and picking up the women.
“Anyone who violates the parking restrictions between those hours will get a citation, whether it is to solicit a prostitute or for business purposes,” Cooper said.
No-stopping signs will be installed March 15, and the regulation will be enforced for the first time about March 25, said Ruth Smith, an associate traffic engineer with the city’s Public Works Agency.
Cooper said violators are subject to a $30 fine, plus an added court-assessed penalty that could exceed $33. It will cost the city about $6,000 to post the 80 no-stopping signs, he said.
The resolution was proposed jointly by the police and the Public Works Agency and is the latest effort to fight prostitution and traffic problems on Harbor Boulevard.
Along with police, Cooper said his office is considering other proposals to relieve the problems, but he declined to elaborate.
In February, an Orange County Superior Court judge rejected a city plan to declare more than a hundred prostitution suspects public nuisances and bar them from Harbor Boulevard.
Under the rejected plan, women suspected of repeated prostitution would have faced--in addition to criminal penalties--a ban on appearing within 100 yards of problem spots along Harbor. Anyone violating the ban would have been jailed for contempt of court and be assessed with civil fines of up to $5,000.
The ACLU argued successfully that such a ban would violate the U.S. Constitution. While sympathizing with the city, the presiding judge in the case said that to impose an all-out ban on people suspected of prostitution was tantamount to asserting that “every attractive woman on Harbor Boulevard is assumed to be a hooker.”
The no-stopping rule apparently did not draw opposition. Police Department spokesman Bob Chavez said the department handed out flyers announcing a community meeting in January, but nobody showed up.
Linda Graham, an employee at a Baskin-Robbins store in the affected area, favors the proposal.
“We’re really happy about it,” she said, adding that she lives on Harbor and sometimes cannot get in and out of her driveway.
“I go home and they try to pick me up, and I’m not a hooker!” she said.