‘We will no longer allow it in the city’: Paterson police crack down on prostitution

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Paterson police are cracking down on prostitution in the city, while there are calls from some to legalize the profession.

"Anywhere where we have an issue with prostitution, we're going to go after you hard. And we are going to increase those efforts to make sure that we stomp it out. It is an unacceptable behavior and we will no longer allow it in the city of Paterson,” says Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale.

Police arrested 50 people in the city Wednesday who were involved in some way in prostitution. Undercover cops posed as Johns to bust prostitutes. Then they dressed as prostitutes to arrest the Johns.

"We're not going to stop. And what we're going to do is we're going to start releasing the photographs of the individuals out there prostituting and the individuals out there soliciting a prostitute,” Speziale says.

But there are some who are calling for decriminalizing sex work, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, who says it's about protecting women and children.

“They were criminalized without looking at the real offender, which often that case was the pimps and the Johns but instead the women were being arrested as prostitutes,” Harris says.

Still, there are others who say that making prostitution legal implies that it is a choice.

“Young people don’t have another option. They're kind of forced into it because they have nowhere to go. They're homeless, they're on the street, they're high-risk,” says Covenant House executive director Jim White.

Covenant House is the largest rescue group for sex trafficking survivors in New Jersey. White says about 25% of the kids there have been forced to have sex to survive.

“It’s a horrific experience for our young people and we have to do a lot of work with them to help them to come to a place of peace,” says White.

Covenant House runs almost entirely on private donations. It just started using a new screening tool to better identify trafficking victims.

In the case of the Paterson bust, the youngest prostitute arrested was 25 years old.

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