Police in Santa Ana, Calif., have mounted a decade-long campaign against street prostitution, but the Orange County Register questions its cost and effectiveness. Santa Ana’s aggressive strategy isn’t unusual among law enforcement agencies, but the scale of its initiative has become extraordinary. County prosecutors have filed nearly 5,000 prostitution-related cases sent over by Santa Ana police since 2003. In 2010, Santa Ana police reported 672 prostitution arrests, more than all other Orange County jurisdictions combined and more than most major police departments in the state. Only Los Angeles and San Diego, cities more than four times the size of Santa Ana, reported more.
Millions of dollars in public resources have been spent. But an examination of Santa Ana’s initiative by the Orange County Register raises serious questions about its value. While some Santa Ana residents say there is now less prostitution, experts who study crime-fighting techniques say the initiative focuses on the wrong people and only provides temporary relief. In general, experts say, police should target men who encourage prostitution and should make greater efforts to connect women with social services. One such initiative in San Francisco has been praised and has been adopted by Los Angeles and San Diego.