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Thousands Of Dollars Lost To Lack Of Enforcement

BOSTON -- The days of Boston's seedy, crime-ridden Combat Zone are long gone. Now luxury high rises line the streets. Exotic dancers have been replaced by exotic food. Women no longer work the streets.

VIDEO: Boston Police Slow Keep Prostitutes Off Streets

But Team 5 Investigates discovered the major prostitution problem has just moved across town. From Blue Hill Ave to Grove Hall, the problem is rampant.
"On this strip alone, this is really where the money's at," said a Dorchester prostitute who goes by the name of "Jackie."

City Councilor-at-large Michael Flaherty helped beef up an ordinance four years ago to address the problem.

" Just last weekend they had arrested seven individuals as part of a sting," said Flaherty.

But "Jackie" said police aren't very aggressive and a few arrests aren't going to stop her from making a living.

"I'm trying to make money, take care of my kids, support myself, put food in my stomach, pay bills," said Jackie.

During a March city council hearing on the sexual exploitation of women, outreach workers asked the city council for more funding. Flaherty told them if police enforced the November 2004 ordinance, programs would have more cash flow. That was the purpose of the ordinance -- to help pay for drug rehab, counseling, and shelter so prostitutes could get out of the trade. Pimps and johns are providing more financial support than social service agencies and Flaherty said that's a big problem.

Team 5 Investigates found that in the 4 years since Boston police have had the power to impound the cars of suspected "johns" and charge them a $300 dollar fine to get their car back, they didn't issue a single citation. Police didn't even try to collect a dime until this spring.

" There are no excuses for NOT enforcing this ordinance," said Flaherty.

The Bandeli Project is an outreach program working to get prostitutes off the streets.

"Along with the prostitution comes the drug dealing. It comes hand in hand then comes the violence, so who's safe," said Denise Williams, the founder of Bandeli Project. "

Right now the Bandeli project operates solely on donations. More money would make a big difference.

The ordinance is supposed to help pay for outreach services to help get women off the streets. But documents obtained by Team 5 Investigates show that since the law passed, Boston Police have arrested 132 people for soliciting prostitutes. But by failing to collect the fines, they missed out on $40,000.

"Any and all things that can be done to remedy the issue are being done," said Boston Police spokesperson James Kenneally.

Team 5 investigates asked police why they waited four years. Police said, the way the ordinance is written makes it nearly impossible to collect the fee. They say they can't force the private tow companies they use to impose the $300 fine. And they can't use the Boston Transportation Department towing services because it is not staffed overnight during police prostitution stings.

Flaherty said they have no problem towing cars for other reasons.

"The city towed over 38,0000 cars for the street cleaning program so we found a way to tow those. And I'd argue this is a more pressing quality of life issue."

Flaherty said if police rounded up more "johns" it would bring in more money to get prostitutes off the streets.

Lisa Goldblatt Grace, runs the "My Life, My Choice" program, a prostitution prevention group. She said funding is critical.

"We need emergency housing for girls who have been exploited and need to get them somewhere safe and stable," said Goldblatt Grace.

"This is a very important ordinance that will help include the quality of life here in the neighborhoods of Boston," said Flaherty.

Flaherty said if the ordinance needs to be revised, of if city towing practices need changing, to collect the fines, the city council's ready to work with police to get it done.
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