Dallas is offering prostitutes the option of going to rehab or jail, reports the Associated Press. Police treat prostitutes as sex crime victims, offering many a chance to clean up and get off the streets. Advocates acknowledge that the program’s success has been limited: half of the 375 women have chosen rehab, and just 21 have turned their lives around. Authorities say they’re gaining the women’s trust and have gotten leads on unsolved crimes.
The program could spread beyond Dallas. More than 200 law enforcement agents from the U.S. and Canada attended a National Prostitution Diversion conference in November. Since then, groups from Edmonton, Atlanta, and Fort Worth have asked for more information about the program. “We are the pioneers, I suppose,” said Renee Breazeale of Homeward Bound, a nonprofit detoxification and counseling center in Dallas. “It’s the only police-led program and represents a change of culture for law enforcement.” The program starts with a monthly roundup of prostitutes in an area considered the national epicenter of syphilis.