The young women in skimpy outfits lined up on the grassy median across from Best Elementary, day after day, looking for "dates. It didn't take long for Vinicia Cruz to decide she didn't want to walk her daughter the half-block from their apartment to pre-kindergarten class.
They drove instead. The southwest Houston elementary is at the core of the Bissonnet Track, a notorious prostitution hub that is known internationally. Law enforcement officers have policed the hotspot for decades, running regular sting operations in the area.
But the drumbeat of arrests and jail time have had little impact on the sheer Houston TX craigslist prostitutes of street hustling in the neighborhood. So last summer, officials took a drastic new approach. In an unusual civil strategy, the state and Harris County sued 86 accused prostitutes, pimps and johns who'd been arrested repeatedly in the area, saying they were disrupting the flow of everyday life.
If they continued to flag down cars, seek "dates" and loiter in doorways or outside shops, they could face civil penalties, the lawsuit said. The proposed "anti-prostitution zone" — in a working-class enclave where Bissonnet meets Beltway 8 — emerged amid the bravado of illicit outdoor sex peddling that residents and shopkeepers had complained about for years, according to Celena Vinson, a deputy managing attorney for the Harris County Attorney's Office and the chief architect of the injunction. They are in control of this area. The civil injunction, however, opened a Pandora's box of tough questions about the sex trade: Whom should the law punish for public prostitution in an era when sex trafficking is recognized as damaging and pervasive?
Are prostitutes victims or perpetrators of crime — or both? Did leaders earnestly hope to shut down the world's oldest profession or just force it into other neighborhoods? Vinson wants to break the cycle of prostitution, to shut it down.
It's disingenuous, she said, to treat people who've been arrested repeatedly for prostitution as if they were innocent babes. Anti-trafficking advocates opposed the plan, saying the women working the grassy median near Best Elementary and others like them are victims, that they were compelled to hustle johns, that tagging them as "nuisances" would heap further abuse on people already deeply wounded. Anjali Nigam, one of a half-dozen lawyers representing suspected prostitutes, argued in court documents that the lawsuit shows "callous disregard" for victims' safety and labels as criminals people who have been "manipulated, branded, battered and bruised and abused — physically, sexually, and mentally.
The government is dedicating resources to shaming and punishing victims rather than protecting them, she said.
Celena Vinson, the chief architect of the Bissonnet Track injunction talks about eradicating human trafficking and providing support for the victims at a press conference at City Hall, Wednesday, Aug. Vinson is a deputy managing attorney for the Harris County Attorney's Office, overseeing the unit that brings nuisance lawsuits. The mayor, police chief and other officials announced the Bissonnet injunction at a big City Hall rollout in August, offering metaphors about darkness and sunlight, about clearing weeds that had long gone untended.
By banning troublesome people from troublesome behavior on the Track, they said, they could lay the groundwork for urban renewal and quality of life improvements.
Within days, a new metaphor surfaced in the chambers of government, with the head of the city's public safety committee comparing the situation on Bissonnet to an infection. But in the months following the announcement, opposition to the proposed ban gained momentum in heady legal briefs and prickly courtroom showdowns, where the defense argued the injunction amounted to harmful government overreach.
A judge has not yet ruled on the request. The county already has had some success filing dozens of injunctions to shut down motels, bars, spas and other businesses that allowed the sex trade to flourish. But the new lawsuit focused on 50 accused prostitutes, 23 alleged johns and 13 suspected pimps, saying the key to eliminating the problem is to target all three groups.
Opponents argue the suit is unconstitutional. Advocates challenge the concept that a community can rehabilitate a broken place without addressing the needs of broken people. Vinson envisioned the injunction as a Houston TX craigslist prostitutes remedy, a "tool of last resort" to address a flagrant public safety threat.
Victims can opt out of the nuisance case if they show they've been trafficked, sued in error or are trying to turn their lives around. Houston's legal action was modeled after a lawsuit by the city of Milwaukee against 75 suspected prostitutes with repeated arrests in three different neighborhoods.
It did not include pimps or johns. As in Houston, officials asked a judge to ban the suspected sex workers from loitering in the areas, with possible civil penalties if they returned. After a lengthy legal fight, the Milwaukee injunction went into effect in Court records indicate at least eight women were ordered to pay fines after violating the order. But overall, the effort fell flat, and some of the same people identified in the lawsuit are still on the same streets, said Heather Hough, an assistant city attorney in Milwaukee who oversees nuisance abatement.
Brian Burks, who helped conceptualize the county's injunction, said the first step to revitalizing the neighborhood is to stop crime. A former Harris County sheriff's sergeant, Burks now serves as deputy executive director for the Southwest Management District. The quasi-governmental entity represents an area that includes the Bissonnet corridor and pays a monthly retainer to the county attorney's office to handle legal matters such as nuisance lawsuits.
Our one interest is getting those people out of there and just making it nicer. State District Judge Michael Gomez, who is presiding over the case, has indicated he will conduct a hearing on the constitutional issues it raises. But he offered a glimpse recently into his perspective on whether prostitutes are victims. The Bissonnet Track was unfamiliar turf for Anjali Nigam, 41, a lawyer who is working pro bono to represent several Jane Doe defendants in the civil injunction case. Nigam now sees the neighborhood targeted in the lawsuit as a flashing beacon: an irrepressible prostitution hub amid a world-class metropolis.
The Bissonnet Track was unfamiliar turf for Nigam when she ed a group of lawyers donating their services to Houston TX craigslist prostitutes the lawsuit. The year-old attorney had been raised by immigrant parents in the Memorial area and graduated from a prestigious prep school.
She now sees the Track as an egregious blight in a world-class metropolis — but not for the usual reasons. In her view, the problem is not the women on corners in bikini tops and thong underwear but that they and others are being exploited in plain sight. Nigam voiced her concerns in a series of courtroom exchanges with Vinson in months of legal wrangling over the requested injunction, telling the judge she thought the lawsuit was a publicity stunt that endangered vulnerable people by making their names and addresses available for all to see.
In making her case to the court, Nigam relied on Ann Johnson, a criminal defense lawyer who founded the human trafficking unit at the Harris County District Attorney's Office and helped establish a juvenile court for potential trafficking victims. Johnson found that at least 35 of the 50 accused prostitutes identified in the lawsuit "are, have been or are at risk of having been trafficking victims," according to court documents. Most trafficking victims — Houston TX craigslist prostitutes many as 90 percent — were abused as children, she said, citing Justice Department data.
During her time with the DA's office, Johnson said she brought charges against a Houston man who eventually got 60 years in prison for trying to sell a 4-year-old relative for sex using a Craigslist ad entitled, "Play with Daddie's Little Girl. Sometimes, girls abused at a young age later catch the attention of pimps, who have a knack for finding abused and neglected people, Johnson said.
The pimps offer them attention, shelter and sustenance and then turn the tables by insisting on loyalty.
She said the injunction might deter johns by publicly shaming them but is likely to have the reverse effect on pimps, because it plays into their penchant for self-promotion. She fears the injunction will isolate prostitutes by discouraging them from trusting authority figures and others who could provide help. A Houston police officer escorts a man onto a police van on a charge of soliciting prostitution during an undercover operation on the Bissonnet Track on Oct.
Even before the judge rules on the injunction, county officials have struggled to notify the 86 defendants that they've been sued.
Process servers have informed 51 of the 86 defendants in more than eight months. One alleged trafficker refused to come to the door when officers first tried to serve him, according to Vinson.
Some no longer lived — if they ever had — at their last known addresses. Another had her prostitution case dismissed by the district attorney's office. A Cypress woman named in the suit was found dead behind a dumpster in Dallas. The county attorney has dismissed charges against 17 defendants, a mix of accused johns and prostitutes.
An ex-prostitute, a year-old with a criminal record dating back toagreed that she had "created a public nuisance by unreasonably interfering with a public right and public interest" and admitted her conduct was "abnormal, dangerous and out of place in its surroundings. She ed a legal agreement with the county, promising not to beckon motorists or converse with pedestrians in the neighborhood; linger on street corners, parking lots or at bus stops; or loiter and converse in doorways or on private property.
She promised she would not stand outside Best Elementary unless she had legitimate business there. She told Vinson she wanted to pursue a career as a home health aide and didn't want a pending lawsuit to be a barrier. Eddie Larue was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for trafficking a year-old girl on the Bissonnet Track.
The case of convicted pimp Eddie Larue offers a rare glimpse into the difficulties law enforcement can face in shutting down traffickers through conventional policing. National Human Trafficking Hotline : Call or at help humantraffickinghotline. Callers may remain anonymous.
National Domestic Violence Hotline : Call for local resources such as emergency shelters, legal advocacy and assistance and social service programs. The LandingBissonnet St. It is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.
Houston Area Women's CenterWaugh Drive : The center provides free advocacy, counseling, education, career support, help finding child care and case management, and has a food pantry and limited clothing available on site. The center serves men, women and children. Domestic Violence Hotline : Call for help with emergency or transitional and hour hospital accompaniment.
Redeemed Ministries : The faith-based organization operates an eight-bed safe house and counseling program for sex trafficking victims in the Houston area. Referrals may be made online or via voice mail at Harris County Pct. Griffin accepts court-ordered participants as well as voluntary ones in her weekly support group. She has connections for shelter, education programs and more.
Larue — one of the few pimps convicted in federal court in Houston — is serving a year sentence for trafficking a year-old runaway on the Bissonnet Track in As part of a plea deal, Larue, 33, of Missouri City, admitted he saw the girl at a gas station about 2 a. He took her to a nearby motel. He dropped her off at 8 a. Throughout the day, Larue called and texted the girl, keeping tabs on her whereabouts, answering questions about pricing. He shuttled her to a beauty shop, where he bought fluffy slippers to replace her broken shoe. ZIP: 77069 77068 77061 77060 77063 77062 77065 77064 77067 77066 77036 77037 77034 77035 77032 77033 77030 77031 77038 77449 77489 77046 77045 77044 77040 77048 77201 77598 77018 77019 77015 77016 77017 77010 77011 77012 77013 77091 77093 77099 77053 77346 77345 77546 77547 77025 77024 77027 77026 77021 77020 77023 77022 77029 77028 77094 77096 77090 77098 77078 77079 77072 77073 77070 77071 77076 77077 77074 77075 77407 77047 77043 77041 77336 77339 77338 77003 77002 77007 77006 77005 77004 77009 77008 77571 77450 77082 77089 77088 77083 77081 77080 77087 77086 77085 Houston TX craigslist prostitutes 77092 77042 77054 77055 77056 77057 77058 77059 77396 77051 77506 77504 77001 77052 77202 77203 77204 77205 77206 77207 77208 77209 77210 77212 77213 77215 77216 77217 77218 77219 77220 77221 77222 77223 77225 77226 77227 77228 77229 77230 77231 77233 77234 77235 77236 77237 77241 77242 77243 77244 77245 77248 77249 77251 77252 77253 77254 77255 77256 77257 77259 77261 77262 77263 77266 77269 77270 77271 77272 77273 77274 77275 77282 77284 77287 77288 77289 77291 77292 77293 77297 77299 77315 77325 77411