Parents of children are up in arms that prostitutes are soliciting sex work right outside a California elementary school. Some are saying that a law passed by California Democrats has handcuffed law enforcement in cracking down on sex workers selling their bodies in broad daylight.
KGO-TV conducted an investigation about prostitutes working outside St. Anthony's elementary school in East Oakland. The San Francisco-based news station captured video of sex workers dressed in minimal clothes and stiletto heels walking the streets near the Catholic school to sell their bodies in the middle of the day with students nearby.
KGO-TV reported, "The I-Team captured videos along E. 15th Street outside the school gate on four different dates over the past couple weeks showing young women wearing barely any clothing walking along the school sidewalk, the street corners, or directly across from the school. All of the videos were captured as children were being dropped off or walked into school."
Concerned parent Rosa Vargas told KGO-TV said she sees prostitutes near the Catholic school "every day, during all periods of the day."
Vargas said the sex workers solicit sex so close to the elementary school that they recently "were blocking the entrance of the parking structure" of the school.
"My daughter asked if I liked what the girl was wearing," Vargas said. "I told her don't turn around, don't look. It's not OK."
Speaking about pimps near the school, Vargas said, "They've followed me a couple times."
Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo noted that he is receiving complaints about prostitutes every week.
Gallo stated, "I get the call saying, 'Mr. Gallo I can't get into my home because the pimp is blocking my driveway.' It's constant."
Gallo said he has seen up to 20 scantily-clad women walking up and down the street, appearing to engage in prostitution. He revealed that some of the girls are as young as 15 years old.
City officials believe some of the women are victims of human trafficking.
Some believe that recent construction along a busy highway caused the sex workers to migrate to residential neighborhoods.
St. Anthony's has requested more police patrols in the area.
However, St. Anthony's pastor Ghebriel Woldai said, "It's not enough. They promised us they will do more presence here."
Woldai said the parish had requested more patrols from the Oakland Police Department for years, but to no avail.
Rodney Pierre-Antoine – who oversees seven Catholic elementary schools, including St. Anthony's – said the hands of the police "are somewhat handcuffed."
Pierre-Antoine is referencing Senate Bill 357, known as the Safer Streets for All Act.
SB 357 states:
Existing law prohibits soliciting or engaging in an act of prostitution, as specified. Existing law also prohibits loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, as defined, or directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a person who is loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, or collecting or receiving all or part of the proceeds of an act of prostitution. Under existing law, a violation of any of these provisions is a misdemeanor. This bill would repeal those provisions related to loitering with the intent to commit prostitution and would make other conforming changes.
Fatima Shabazz of DecrimSexWork CA Coalition – a "coalition of current and former sex workers, organizers, and allies" – said of the bill, "SB 357 repeals a Jim Crow law that criminalized black and trans people in public spaces."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 357 into law in July, and it went into effect on Jan. 1.
Police officers told KGO-TV that the new law is prohibiting them from rescuing women who they believe are victims of human trafficking.
California State Sen. Scott Wiener – a Democrat who introduced SB 357 – defends the bill.
Wiener argued, "It allowed police officers to arrest a person, not based on what they did, but based solely on how a person looks. So an officer could arrest someone because they were wearing tight clothing, high heels, and extra lipstick."
Wiener's office said, "This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is 'acting like' or 'looks like' they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, black and brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers."
Wiener conceded, "That footage is very troubling. We don't want sex work and solicitation happening by schools, it's not acceptable for the children and the neighbors."
Wiener said police officers who said they were handcuffed by the new law were "dead wrong," and utilizing a "copout." He alleged that the issue has been around longer than the new law.
He advised police to arrest the pimps and johns.
Oakland officials promise to increase police patrols and install new cameras after the eye-opening report was published.
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