The Prince George’s County Council voted this week to empower police to crack down on a growing prostitution problem along the Washington, D.C., border and other areas.
Residents said peak hours for prostitution are 3-9 a.m. Children who are on their way to school between those hours often see prostitutes and sexual activity, said Andina Keith, Fairmount Heights resident and founder of Citizens Against Prostitution.
“This bill will go a long way,” she told the council. “The safety of our children was being compromised.”
Council members Tuesday passed legislation that would make it unlawful for two or more people to gather in a public space or property with the intent of engaging in prostitution.
The county’s chief of police would be allowed to create such zones in areas with high numbers of arrests or calls related to prostitution or prostitution-related offenses. Zones will only exist for up to 48 hours, and violators of the law could be fined up to $1,000 and face up to six months in jail.
Prostitution has become a major quality of life issue in areas of District 5 said Councilwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5), who sponsored the bill. The district includes the town of Fairmont Heights, which borders Washington, D.C., along Eastern Avenue.
Officials from the town said prostitutes are pushed out of D.C. into the town during police sweeps in the city. Current laws don’t go far enough to punish crimes connection to prostitution, officials said.
“For too long we’ve been plagued by crime that [follows] prostitution,” said Mayor Lillie Thompson-Martin. “There are no teeth in the laws of both jurisdictions.”
During the summer, Harrison had complained to county police that current laws were too loose and did not go far enough to penalize prostituted related offenses. This week, she said that D.C. was also working on toughening laws against prostitution.
“We’re working together,” she said.