Inner City Diary
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The sound of flapping gums from gutless courts
June 24, 2002
Imagine a warm summer night in Whyte Ridge. Imagine lots of cars on Scurfield. A fair bit of shouting and horns honking due to some new people in the neighbourhood. But you finally get to sleep and wake to another bright and sunny Manitoba morning.

You go downstairs, make a cup of coffee and open your front door to get the morning paper. As you open the door, you notice several young women strutting their stuff on the sidewalk in front of your house. They’re displaying their wares in a seeming attempt to attract the attention of passing motorists. Some cars slow down, almost like they’re window shopping. Others stop and the girls get in. A few minutes later and the girls are back, looking for another “ride.”

You close the door and figure, “That’s too bad. I wish they wouldn’t do that.” And you open the morning paper to read about the more important concerns in the world.

You’re interrupted by your kids asking about the odd behavior of the women outside. You explain to them that what people do with their own bodies is none of our business.

Later in the morning, your wife walks to the store and is asked by several lewd strangers if she wants a “ride.” In the afternoon, your teenage daughter walks to a friend’s house, and is followed for several blocks by guys professing their undying affection and offering her a “ride.” They complain to you about how uncomfortable it makes them feel. You tell them, “Don’t take it personally, sweetheart. It’s just part of life in the big city.”

Later in the afternoon, you’re cutting the lawn and stop the mower just before it engages a used syringe. You look across the street and notice your six year old son and his friends have picked up – and are blowing up – a long translucent ‘balloon.’

Now you’re ticked off! This is no simple case of girls with multiple boyfriends. This is not about women who profit from serial-dating. Private choices are none of your business. But the public peddling and solicitation of bodies on residential streets has suddenly become your business.

Cops talk to the girls, but seem powerless to move them off the corner. The girls have their rights, after all. Courts won’t get involved unless the girls actually proposition undercover police officers.

Imagine that the cops agree to do an undercover sweep of the area to pick up the johns and janes. Over 90 hours of police work, thousands of tax dollars to fill uniforms, cars, and streets with law enforcement. Tax dollars well spent, right?

Wrong! In reality, the courts make a mockery of all that police time, effort and money spent in sweeps.

In a recent West End “sweep,” the six girls that were picked up all had a lengthy record of repeat offenses relating to the same issues. There are at least 2 – 3 hours of paperwork if cops want to even bring charges in court. In some cases the girls are back on the streets before the cops. In the last sweep, one hooker got picked up twice in the same night!

It’s not like the cops aren’t doing their job. They’re the only “law” most of us ever meet. We get in their face with our frustrations. But when’s the last time you had a meeting with judges or crown attorneys?

Cops pick up the girls and deliver them into a justice system that seemingly doesn’t care. When found guilty, either the Crown attorneys are not asking for strict conditions or the judges choose not to grant them. Time served, if any, is short. Money for fines can be recouped through one evening’s work on the street.

Concern for what these women are doing to themselves should motivate Crowns and judges to mandate treatment for their addictions and health issues. The slow and public suicide of these girls should not be facilitated by the courts. The only time these “victims” are safe is when they’re in custody – and getting help.

Concern for what these women are doing to our communities should motivate Crowns and judges to attach conditions that the women not reside at or visit in the community which they are abusing. In other abusive situations, courts protect victims by barring contact with the people they’ve abused, threatened or endangered. I wonder if things would be different if these things happened in another part of town.

So, the next time you hear politicians, Crowns and judges talking tough on crime, don’t believe everything you hear. From what I see in my neighbourhood, they’re all more interested in flapping their gums about the law than in taking a real bite out of crime.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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