Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts told members of the San Antonio neighborhood that he expected at least one of two anti-prostitution proposals being explored for the area to become a reality soon. Dozens of members of the International Boulevard community, often called the “Track” because of the prevalence of the sex trade there, marched between 17th and 23rd avenues in a show of unity against prostitution on Thursday night.
Batts said his department is looking into posting mug shots of men arrested on suspicion of prostitution on the Oakland police website, or using Department of Motor Vehicle records to send “Dear John” warning letters to owners of vehicles spotted loitering along the strip.
“We’re working through issues with the city attorney and looking into whether we can use DMV records that way,” he told the crowd as it gathered on 17th Avenue.
The event, called “Safe Streets, Safe Kids,” marked the third time since March that residents have gathered to oppose prostitution and pimping, particularly of minors. The nonprofit Oakland Community Organizations put together the rally with the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) .
Andy Nelsen of EBAYC has lived in the area for some 30 years and has a young daughter.
“You know its really hard to walk past this with your daughter everyday on the way to school,” said Nelson. Its really hard to explain that to your kids. And there’s a concern that we know the pimps are out here trying to find girls all the time.”
Nelson says his group conducted a survey of some 500 parents in the neighborhood asking them how raising children could be made easier. Stopping prostitution was a priority for most of the respondents.
“Before it wasn’t this bad,” Mili Bolanos said. “It’s really hard now.”
Bolanos said the sex trade seems to have gotten worse as the economy has weakened, but that the police department has done a good job responding to the community’s request for more surveillance of the area.
As for the community’s decision to come together, “It’s marvelous,” Batts said. “It’s exactly what I want.”
The residents held banners that said “Make our neighborhood safe” and “Honk for safe streets, safe kids.”
The group included young children, elderly residents and everyone in between. Some marchers shook rattles and blew horns, while others used bullhorns to ask onlookers to join the cause.
“We will not tolerate men coming here looking for girls and sex,” Bolanos said.
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Bay City News contributed to this report.