In Effort to Reduce Prostitution, Stanton is Outing Johns

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Whenever Manuela Hernandez ventures out with her children from their apartment complex behind the Tahiti Motel in Stanton, she has to contend with the cars and trucks that speed down Beach Boulevard.

But that’s not the only traffic she has to worry about along the boulevard – she also must deal with prostitutes soliciting their services in full view of her children.

“Prostitution occurs often around here,” said Hernandez, a mother of two.

The sources of the prostitution are five cheap motels situated one after another on Beach Boulevard between Orangewood and Chapman avenues, according to residents in nearby neighborhoods. They are: Riviera Motel, Tahiti Motel, Starlite Motel, Stanton Villa Motel, and Howard Johnson Inn Stanton.

Hernandez said the prostitutes are often servicing their Johns in full view of anyone on the street.

“When I came back from work around 1 AM, I saw a mysterious car parked at the end of the street,” she said, recalling one particularly outrageous incident. “Then, all of a sudden, a naked prostitute runs out of the car as fast as she can – God knows what happened!”

She also talks about the day she was driving down Beach Boulevard with the kids in the car when she realized they were staring at a prostitute with her pants half-way down. The prostitute noticed and began yelling obscenities at the family.

Such occurrences have become so common along Beach Boulevard that the Stanton City Council has decided to take the somewhat drastic step of publicly outing the Johns who get picked up by police. Currently, the city is sending names to media outlets – but they are also considering publishing them on the city’s website.

“Eliminating the exploitation of women must be a goal of every single level of government from the city to the county, state and federal level,” said Mayor Rigoberto Ramirez, the initiator of the program.

The program has the support of at least one of the hotel owners.

“The [Orange County] Sheriff’s department recently cleaned up the area of prostitutes, but the problem is ongoing,” said Sherri Kiss, manager of the Howard Johnson Inn Stanton. “I think this program [the city proposed] will help in some way. All I know is that we need a solution.”

Stanton’s program mirrors the practice by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office of publishing convicted solicitors of prostitution. However, the solution could create its own problems.

City Attorney Matthew Richardson pointed out that there are potential liability issues. Publishing names of Johns may lead to many lawsuits because it can be argued that the city is violating the John’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

Richardson said, “There is no way to eliminate liability but there is a way to minimize liability.”

After reviewing potential liability issues, the city of Stanton had implemented the program of publishing only the names of convicted Johns. The program will be maintained from their existing operating budget, said Ramirez, there is no fiscal impact to the general fund.

Stanton City Council agreed that the risk is worth taking because they face liability issues regardless of the cause. For example, a resident can miss a step and fall on the sidewalk and Stanton will face a lawsuit.

The best option, Richardson said, is to wait until the John is convicted, which the city does. It is less likely that the John will win the lawsuit if he decides to sue.

That being said, city officials say if the program works as intended, relatively few names will be published.

“This program will in itself be more productive in preventing rather than punishing,” said Councilman Alexander Ethans.

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Stanton City Attorney Matthew Richardson as an assistant Orange County District Attorney. We regret the error.

Kenia Torres is a part of Voice of OC’s youth media program and a UC Irvine student majoring in Literary Journalism. She grew up in Santa Ana. You can reach her directly at keniat@uci.edu

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