ACLU tells Newark cops: Leave those prostitutes alone
NEWARK - Newark should leave prostitutes alone, according to the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU.
Executive Director Udi Ofer said in a statement that the arrest of 13 people on prostitution and solicitation charges over this past weekend is a "poor use of the Newark Police Department's limited funds."
"Using our criminal justice system to harass, arrest and incarcerate consenting adults who agree to exchange sex for money is a poor use of the NPD’s limited resources," Ofer said.
The weekend arrests are part of a law enforcement effort by Newark Police called "Broken Windows" that focuses on lower-tier crimes such as disorderly conduct and panhandling. Olfer said that policy should be abandoned and police should be "focusing its resources on conditions that have led to situations where residents may turn to panhandling or sex work as a source of income, and not by arresting residents."
While acknowledging that prostitution is illegal, Ofer said police should "choose to sow trust among the community rather than alienate some of the most vulnerable members whose actions should not be considered a crime to begin with.”
In a statement referenced by NJ Advance Media, City Department of Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said his department must pursue all reports of crimes.
"I can't tell the police personnel to turn their heads and to selectively enforce certain statues, laws and ordinances," Ambrose said. "We address all complaints received in my office or by my officers regardless of whether they are minor or serious."
He said most complaints of prostitution were coming from residents, "where sex acts are occurring in vehicles in front of their homes," and that it would be "irresponsible" for police to ignore those complaints.
In August the ACLU laid out its plan for police accountability called "A Blueprint for New Jersey," which included an end to policing for low-level offenses. The plan also call for independent investigation of police-involved shootings, body cameras for police, an end to civil asset forfeiture seizures and an increase in transparency for police departments.
It's the latest statement by the ACLU about lower level crime in New Jersey. Last December, the group concluded that black people were nearly 10 times more likely than white people to be arrested for minor crimes in Jersey City.
The Jersey City example was the most extreme, but the ACLU report, looking at 10 years of data on the enforcement of four low-level offenses — loitering, marijuana possession of 50 grams or less, defiant trespass, and disorderly conduct — found similar patterns in other towns. The report includes data through 2013.
In Millville, blacks were 6.3 times more likely to be arrested, the report said. In Elizabeth, 3.4 times, and New Brunswick, 2.6 times., according to the report.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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