Commentary: Arrest the Customers!

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 11, 2008

Sacramento city police and county sheriff deputies arrested 210 prostitutes over the last three months but only two of their customers, a prostitute to customer arrest disparity of more than one hundred to one. That’s huge!

Police concede customers are equally guilty, but they have to set up sting operations to catch them. Really? A former prostitute told Sacramento Bee reporters that on those times she was caught in the act, police arrested her, but just gave her customer a stern talking to.

Police also say it takes a dozen officers between six and seven hours to conduct a sting, and they usually arrest only four people. In half that time, three detectives can pick up six prostitutes. But the goal here shouldn’t be to make arrests, but to stop prostitution and the neighborhood blight it causes. Arresting customers would be at least as effective – and fair.

Nowhere else in the state is the disparity so great. In Riverside, San Joaquin and Fresno Counties, police arrest an equal number of prostitutes and customers. So what’s up in Sacramento? Police chief Rick Braziel and Sheriff John McGinness need to justify arrest policies that send prostitutes to jail while their customers get off, or, in fairness, change them.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.