Oakland hosts millions of visitors for sports events, restaurants, and growing technology businesses. The city also gets lots of out-of-town johns who prowl the streets for sex. Of the 660 arrests last year for prostitution, more than two-thirds of suspects came from outside the city. Tomorrow, reports the New York Times, the city takes an unconventional step in fighting its image as one of the nation’s most crime-ridden cities, introducing a website, reportjohn.org, that authorities hope will deter customers of the sex trade. Residents will be encouraged to note down the license plate numbers of suspected johns’ vehicles and describe the activity they witnessed. Police will send a letter to the address where the vehicle is registered.
Karely Ordaz Salto of the city’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Task Force says Oakland is the first city to target johns in this way. “The hope is that they will think twice and this will deter them,” said Lt. Jill Encinias of the Oakland Police Department. “We really need to attack this problem from all sides. We need to start focusing on the demand.” The city’s problem with prostitution has been underscored by a police department scandal involving a young prostitute who claimed that she had had sex with officers and said the police had tipped her off to raids. The scandal led to the departure of three police chiefs in less than two weeks.