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Kudos to Corpus Christi Texas and to Captain Floyd Simpson

Photo By Michael Zamora, Police Chief Floyd SimpsonWomen in Corpus Christi prostitution are offered services, not arrested. The police understand that any woman who is pimp-controlled is a trafficking victim.

Congratulations from PRE for this humanitarian and cost-effective approach. One question remains: is Corpus Christi also increasing arrests of sex buyers?

CORPUS CHRISTI—Praise to Police Chief Floyd Simpson for implementing a policy recognizing that prostitutes often are the real victims of their so-called victimless crime.

We do not dismiss the existence of shrewd, entrepreneurial sellers of their own bodies. We just don’t think that’s who’s working the streets of Corpus Christi and neither does Simpson. More likely they’re society’s forgotten people, duped or forced into prostitution and kept there by threats or by a drug habit that may have started as part of the duping process.

The traditional job of the police has been to enforce the law against these people, in effect pushing them back toward their victimizers. That’s not to suggest that officers on the street didn’t try to help and protect prostitutes, with police supervisors’ blessing. But Simpson has chosen to make the outreach approach official. Police will work with health care officials and the judicial system to provide social services and offer a way out.

“We have to try and help those who are trapped in this endless cycle,” Simpson told the Caller-Times.

We couldn’t agree more. And anyone who thinks our police chief is being mamby pamby hasn’t tried speeding down Ocean Drive lately.

Simpson, who came to Corpus Christi recently from the Dallas Police Department, is borrowing an approach used in Dallas, where known prostitutes were given health screenings, offered help finding a job or restarting an education, and given mental health care instead of jail time.

In a similar spirit, during Austin’s Formula One Grand Prix event in November, police there went on high alert for signs of human trafficking. Law enforcement authorities reported only 13 prostitution-related arrests during the Grand Prix weekend, but told the Austin American-Statesman that they learned fromthe experience about being more effective at victim outreach —and by victims they meant the prostitutes. The regular worker of the same street corner isn’t in as dire a predicament as sex slaves trucked from city to city. But, at the risk of sounding dramatic: She or he, if answerable to a pimp, is a victim of human trafficking.

The shifting attitude of law enforcement is a welcome about-face from the hard line encouraged by a state law passed in 2001 allowing felony prison time for a third prostitution conviction. All that did was clog the system at a high cost. The Simpson/Dallas solution is compassionate but also pragmatic.

As Jason Boland says in his song about a stripper, “it’s all about the money,” and society saves a lot of it by not arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating. The American-Statesman’s Mike Ward reported last summer that incarceration in a state prison for a year costs $18,538, or $15,500 in a lower-security state jail, but enrolling the prostitute in a community-based program for a year costs $4,300.

That’s a simple equation that tough-on-crime sticklers should take into consideration: Treating prostitutes as criminals costs quadruple the price of helping them rejoin society.

There’s something poetic in those mathematics, considering that society’s treatment of them as throwaway people is what pushed most of them into their unfortunate circumstance in the first place.

This is a rare case where turning around one life makes the whole program worthwhile on at least three levels —heart, soul and pocketbook