Thursday, September 8, 2011

NOPD Declares War on Sex Workers

Calling prostitution "a dangerous, violent crime," NOPD Police Chief Ronal Serpas announced today that New Orleans police had arrested 67 sex workers in the months of July and August in an undercover operation that also involved State Police, the FBI and the Secret Service.

In June, the NOPD made a similar announcement, in operations that totaled at least 60 prostitution arrests. Another June operation, targeting the clients of prostitutes, brought 29 arrests, including one NOPD officer.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of the recent campaign was the announcement by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro that "prosecutors persuaded judges to slow down," causing releases on light bail to plunge.

The high-profile press conference held to announce the arrests, combined with the multi-agency involvement, indicates that this is another attempt by the NOPD to polish their image, similar to a recent campaign that involved officers checking the locks on car doors and knocking on houses.

The announcement also came on the same day that a judge ruled that a suit challenging Louisiana's registration of sex workers could go forward.

Chief Serpas' official statements further demonized the sex workers, accusing them of nearly every crime short of terrorism. "We find time and time again that women and men who actively participate in prostitution tend to commit other crimes," claimed Serpas. "Such as some form of battery, simple robbery, armed robbery, illegal drug deals, or carrying concealed weapons. In some cases, customers of prostitutes find that their wallets have been lifted, which means bank card theft and sometimes stolen identity cases. This is why it’s an incredibly worthwhile effort to target people involved in the prostitution business."

According to the Times-Picayune, Serpas indicated at the press conference that the arrests were requested by French Quarter business owners. It remains to be seen if this targeting of women provides the public image make-over the NOPD is hoping for.

Photo of Ronal Serpas from 2010 press conference.

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