OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — International Boulevard in East Oakland is one of the largest hubs in the country for prostitution and now there’s a new way to report suspected sexual solicitors, or Johns, to law enforcement.
Oakland is the first city to launch the website Reportjohn.org to attack the demand. The website is a variation of the ‘see something, say something’ mantra.
Evangelina Lara has been living on International Boulevard for 18 years.
“It’s worse and worse,” Lara said. “It’s a hot bed for sex workers and their customers.”
East Bay Asian Youth Center deputy director Andy Nelsen said, “You see it daily.”
Nelsen said prostitution in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood has become part of the landscape.
Police say last year more than two-thirds of the suspects arrested for prostitution didn’t actually live in Oakland.
But now Oakland is giving fed up neighbors a new tool to fight what’s often described as the world’s oldest profession.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the website is “user friendly” and accommodates five different languages.
In addition to English, the site can be used in Vietnamese, Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog.
Neighbors can upload pictures of the suspected John’s vehicle and type in the license plate. The police department would then send a sort of Dear John letter to the registered owner.
Schaaf said there’s no conviction or fines, but the “exposure and shame are just as powerful deterrence.”
Neighbors say any kind of help to slow down this big problem is good.
Nelsen said, “If you’re so ashamed that you can’t have a letter sent to your house, maybe you should look at what you’re doing.”
The city admits that they don’t have a way to stop pranksters or angry ex-lovers from reporting the license plates of innocent drivers.
Police will have to read each report to judge its validity.
The announcement of the new reporting website comes just as two former Bay Area police officers have been formally charged in a sex scandal involving a teenage girl.
The teen girl, formerly a sex worker who went by the name Celeste Guap, said she became embroiled in the officer sex scandal as she was trying to escape a pimp on International Boulevard and attempted to seek help from officers.