Senator Keith Leftwich and Representative Al Lindley today announced a sweeping program to fight the scourge of organized prostitution that has plagued parts of Oklahoma City for several years.
Far from being a victimless crime, Senator Leftwich and Representative Lindley said part of South Oklahoma City is literally under assault due to the high numbers of prostitutes, pimps and customers who frequent the area.
"How can you claim prostitution is a victimless crime when young children walking home from school are being propositioned and traumatized? Or when the streets are littered with needles and syringes and other disgusting evidence of what's been happening. On the contrary, these families are victimized by what's happening in their neighborhoods, and they want it to stop. That's what we're trying to do," explained Senator Leftwich, D-OKC.
Senator Leftwich and Representative Lindley have authored legislation creating harsher penalties for prostitutes and their customers and drive them from the neighborhood streets they've infested.
"You're talking about a business that can make these pimps and prostitutes hundreds of thousands of dollars in a relatively short time. We intend to make it too expensive for them to do business in our neighborhoods," said Leftwich.
Under the proposed legislation, fines for prostitution and pimping would be raised to $2,500 for a first offense, $5,000 for second, and $7,500 for third offense. For customers, a first offense would mean a fine of $3,000, and subsequent offenses would result in a $6,000 fine.
"Another change we've recommended is to make prostitution and pimping within 1,000 feet of a school or church a felony, which would be prosecuted by the state in District Court rather than municipal court," said Leftwich. The Senator noted it is already a felony to ask someone to engage in sex in exchange for money, a law aimed at penalizing customers of prostitutes.
Representative Lindley explained another problem is the use of Own Recognizance, or O.R. Bonds for prostitution and related offenses.
"Basically, instead of posting a bond the person being charged simply gives their word they'll show up for court. With no money to lose, often the prostitutes just skip town. That's got to change," said Lindley, D-OKC. "We think we can accomplish that by setting a minimum bond of $15,000. Even though bail bondsmen only charge 10 to 15% of that amount, it's still going to cost the prostitutes and their pimps at least $1,500. We want to ensure the cost of doing business is too high for these low-lives."
"In addition, we want to step up police presence in these areas. We know that resources are limited, and resources are already stretched pretty thin. That's why I'm pleased to announce that Oklahoma County Sheriff John Wetsel has offered to have some of his officers assist the Oklahoma City Police Department in patrols of these neighborhoods," said Leftwich.
"The Sheriff's officers will not just patrol the area in cars, but on motorcycles, horseback and bicycles. That is community policing at its finest, and on behalf of the southside, I say thanks to Sheriff Whetsel," commented Lindley.
"We're sick of these pimps, prostitutes and customers coming into our neighborhoods, often in big expensive cars from all over the metro and other parts of the state and leaving our families frightened and traumatized. This bill will give law enforcement more power to fight prostitution and the evil that is associated with it. We recognize it's going to take everyone doing their part to make sure the pimps get the message, you can't pollute our neighborhoods," said Leftwich.