Community Concerns on Prostitution

Sex trade worker soliciting a vehicle.

The Ottawa Police Service is reviewing the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, presented on June 4, 2014, by the Federal Government.  We have been clear that in light of the Supreme Court decision last December, police will require legislative tools to address community concerns related to sex trade activities in our communities. We also have asked for supports to assist those in the sex trade.

We are reviewing the legislation. Our initial review indicates that there are measures in the new legislation that would provide some of the tools being sought by police.

Our enforcement efforts have been driven by community concerns and complaints.  Our focus is responding to community concerns and protecting individuals – most often the women who are involved in the sex trade.

We want to hear the larger public discussion by various stakeholders, community partners, law enforcement and the community at large on what they think of the bill before we comment on specifics of the bill. Contact us.

Community Safety Letters

In October 2007, the Community Safety Letters Program was launched whereby formal letters are sent to sex trade consumers (also known as “Johns”) as a way to sensitize them and drug users of the impact of their illegal activity.  The program complements existing programs such as John Sweeps and John School which are also used to address community concerns on street prostitution and its negative impact on our communities. Some of the issues are:

  • unwanted traffic in communities;A used condom, needle, broken bottle and cigarette butt left on the ground.
  • drug trade; and
  • used condoms and needles left in our parks, playgrounds and public areas.

The letter, tailored to each community where the incident occurs, is sent to the driver of any stopped vehicle visiting area neighborhoods for solicitation.

“We applaud the Ottawa Police's new initiative to fight prostitution,” noted Suzanne Valiquet, of Vanier B.I.A. “We need to do more to eliminate the customer in order to help women involved in the sex trade who are often victims of drug addiction.”

These communities have been victimized by sex trade activities and crack cocaine use in their neighbourhood, with crime (thefts), public nuisance, safety and security concerns. Consequently, the Ottawa Police Service has dedicated both resources and strategies to deal with these concerns.

“We fully endorse this creative strategy,” noted Pamela Connolly, Dalhousie-Somerset Safety Community representative. “Our community has no tolerance for cruising ‘johns’ and street level prostitution.”

The Community Safety Letter will not only act as a deterrent. We believe that it will also be an effective educational tool to raise awareness about the sex trade and crack cocaine use impact on our communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does the police know who to send a Community Safety Letter to?

The letter is only sent to a sex trade consumer who has had direct contact with a police officer. In order to send the Community Safety Letter, the officer would have encountered the consumer when they were:

  • picking up a sex trade worker;
  • found in the company of a sex trade worker;
  • found continually driving around the area frequented by sex trade workers; or
  • continually stopping and talking to sex trade workers.

Can a community member call in a suspected “Johns” licence plate?

Yes, a member of the community can call 613-236-1222, ext. 7300, or email the information to the Ottawa Police Service at info@ottawapolice.ca.

What happens if the owner of the vehicle was not driving the car but their licence plate number was reported?

To maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the program, a letter will not be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle due to the fact that we are unable to identify whether the owner of the car was in fact the sex trade consumer. A letter is only sent to a sex trade consumer that has had direct contact with a police officer. In the event that a licence plate number is reported, Police will use this information to identify potential sex trade consumers.

Is the letter addressed to the owner of the car?

The letter is addressed to the individual that was stopped, regardless if they own the car they were driving at the time. The letter is only intended for the identified individual and nobody else.

How is the letter delivered?

The Ottawa Police Service consulted and worked with the Ontario Privacy Commissioners Office to ensure the letter was as privacy protected as possible.

The letter is sent in a plain envelope and delivered by a private courier company. The courier company has been instructed to only deliver the envelope to the individual on the envelope. The individual has to produce identification and sign for the package.

Are the letters being sent to home or work addresses?

Letters will be sent to home addresses only.

Are you trying to shame or embarrass the individual?

No. The purpose is to educate sex trade consumers and explain the negative impact that Johns have on communities affected by the sex trade. They may not be aware of the community’s concerns and the letter makes them alert to these issues. It also educates them on how they can help address the problem.

Are you concerned about the privacy rights of individuals?

The Ottawa Police Service has shared information about the program with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. Through this consultation, the Ottawa Police Service will ensure that any concerns raised about privacy are appropriately considered and addressed.

Are the community leaders aware of this program?

Yes, the Ottawa Police Service have spoken to community leaders impacted by the sex trade.

Do community leaders approve of this program?

Yes, community leaders impacted by the sex trade approve of the program.

Is there a need for this program?

Yes. This is another tool that can be used to address the sex trade problem in our city. The Ottawa Police Service conducts John and Jane Sweeps, in addition to John School and now, the “Community Safety Letter”.

What do you hope to accomplish with this program?

The Ottawa Police hopes to:

  • educate Johns on the negative impact they have on communities;

  • reduce unwanted traffic; and

  • improve the quality of life of communities impacted by the sex trade.

Is this program effective citywide?

The program is primarily driven in the communities affected most by the sex trade industry.

Is street prostitution a problem in our city?

Street prostitution is a chronic problem. The community regularly calls to complain about:

  • unwanted traffic,

  • prostitutes waiting on the street; and

  • used condoms and needles being left in public areas for others to pickup.

In addition to this, Ottawa Police Service statistics on the sex trade are driven by routine sweeps of prostitution in our city. Neighbourhood Officers spend time organizing and conducting John Sweeps in order to combat the sex trade on a regular basis.

How will you measure the success of the program?

The program will be measured in several ways:

  • feedback from the community;
  • feedback from officers;
  • a reduction in sex trade related complaints; and
  • a reduction in street prostitution.

Are there other police services in Canada sending Community Safety Letters?

Yes. Vancouver and Edmonton have similar letters and they have had success with their programs.

Will the program have any impact on the city’s crack cocaine issue?

Yes, because the two problems are interrelated. If the program has an impact on the sex trade then it should have an impact on crack cocaine use.

What are you doing for the sex trade workers?

The Ottawa Police Service directs any sex trade worker who wants to get off the streets to the following outreach programs and agencies in Ottawa:

 

 

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