Boston will try to reduce prostitution by targeting men who buy sex instead of the women who provide it, the Boston Globe reports. The city is partnering with Demand Abolition, a Cambridge-based group led by former U.S. ambassador Swanee Hunt, to end human trafficking by stifling demand rather than by punishing sex workers. The goal of the public-private partnership is to reduce demand for prostitutes in Boston by 20 percent in two years. The project will involve collecting data on the solicitation of prostitutes, and a team of local leaders will make recommendations for specific awareness and enforcement measures.
Mayor Martin Walsh said traditional ways of combating prostitution have long involved criminal punishment that leads to a cycle of sustained vulnerability for sex workers. “In Boston, we will not tolerate buying or selling of human beings,” he said at an antitrafficking summit yesterday. Boston is one of four cities working with Demand Abolition, which identifies prostitution as a form of human trafficking. The others are Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Solicitation largely occurs online, so the groups will use data-scraping technology to see how many men are visiting websites such as backpage.com and Craigslist in search of sex, said the group’s Lina Nealon. Cities will also employ such measures as staking out a known brothel to count how many visitors go in and out. A demand-side approach to enforcement can be effective because it focuses on those with the most to lose, said Donna Gavin, a sergeant detective in the Boston police human trafficking unit.