Dallas is taking a novel approach to prostitution, as evidenced by this description of the program:
The Dallas Police Department plans to start collecting DNA samples from truck-stop prostitutes on a voluntary basis to help identify the women if they are later reported missing, comatose or murdered.
The unprecedented endeavor is scheduled to begin early next year as a new phase of the department's 2-year-old Prostitution Diversion Initiative, which offers prostitutes a chance at rehabilitation, often as part of a criminal sentence.
It comes as authorities nationwide are increasingly working together and with the FBI to solve hundreds of murders along major highways that are thought to be committed by serial killers working as truckers.
Dubbed the High Risk Potential Victims' DNA Database, it will be funded and maintained by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth.
"These women who are essentially working a lot of these truck stops, they are ... high risk to be killed, to disappear," said Arthur J. Eisenberg, co-director of the UNT center.
He hopes the database eventually will be nationwide.
For Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, the DNA plan is a logical extension of the philosophy of the DPD prostitute diversion program, which is that prostitutes ought to be treated as victims.
The Prostitute Diversion Initiative (PDI) was developed by the Dallas Police Department (DPD) in collaboration with multiple organizations to address this increasing problem of street prostitution. Instead of treating prostitutes as criminals, the DPD would approach them as victims, offering an opportunity for prostitutes to gain access to a comprehensive and multi-step in-patient and out-patient treatment program as an alternative to further victimization and continued involvement in the criminal justice system. Recognizing that violence and substance abuse outcomes characteristic of this vulnerable subgroup are points of common interest for criminal justice systems, social services, and public health, the PDI capitalizes on the participation of a broad range of organizations with multi-disciplinary expertise and key resources to understand the causes of high risk behaviors and ultimately inform more effective ways to reduce associated crime. Included in this collaboration are the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, Dallas County Health Department, Parkland Hospital, courts, and Homeward Bound which takes the lead for over 45 social service and faith-based organizations. The overall goal is to provide those individuals engaged in prostitution, should they choose, a complete exit strategy from the sex trade industry.According to the PDI annual report (pdf), "More than 1,100 individuals, both men and women, have been identified by Dallas Police as engaging in prostitution at four major truck stops along the I-20 corridor." What's more, "Last year, 3,342 prostitution arrests were made in Dallas county alone," but those arrests didn't make a dent in the problem because they merely moved "the visible foot traffic from the streets into the big rigs. This unexpected result from conventional enforcement illustrates how prostitutes are able to quickly adapt to the environment and frustrate law enforcement." The county last year created a specialized prostitution court to handle these cases and administer the program.
At the end of the day, says Dallas PD, the strategy of arresting and jailing prostitutes hasn't reduced the problem. "Many, if not all, arrests resulted in only a temporary solution, due in part to the turnaround time of these types of offenses. Since prostitution is considered a minor offense, these offenders are one of the first to be released from overcrowded jails, essentially creating a revolving door to which prostitutes would return upon release to the only environment and option they believe they have for survival."
It's too early to judge whether this program works better than an enforcement-only approach, since "It is understood that the process for a successful exit from a life of prostitution is long term and could take years for each participant. There may also be those that will require them to be dependent on services for the rest of their life." Of course, those in jail are 100% dependent on government services.
The annual report also included results from a survey of 175 Dallas prostitutes. Here are some of the highlights.
Summary of Findings Demographics
Physical Health Problems
- Current ages of participants ranged from 19-59 years old, with an average of 37 years.
- Sixty-seven percent of participants were African American
- Half completed at least a high school education or GED
- Nearly seventy percent were mothers
Mental Health Disorders
- Over half of participants tested positive for a STD
- Five new HIV cases were identified
- Twenty-three percent of participants reported high blood pressure
- Approximately ten percent of participants reported asthma and seizures
- One participant was currently using a colostomy bag
- Four of the participants reported having cancer
- Sixty one percent of participants reported having a mental health condition
- Nearly twenty percent of participants reported having more than one mental health condition
- One third of participants reported major depression and bipolar disorder
- Twenty percent of participants have attempted suicide
- Thirteen percent of participants reported having schizophrenia
- Nearly three-quarters of participants were diagnosed on Axis I (DSM criteria)
- Over half of participants received diagnoses on multiple axes (DSM criteria)
- Seventy-nine percent of participants had citations pending warrant status
- In total, there were 4,397 citations pending warrant status
- Outstanding warrant fines totaled $1,979,109
- Six year back log on citations being signed into warrants
- Fifty four percent of participants were eligible for immediate diversion to treatment services
- Over half of those participants eligible opted for treatment
- Of those participants entering into the program, nineteen percent completed the initial recovery phase
- Seventy-six percent of participants entering PDI outside the night of initiative completed the initial recovery phase
- Of those participants completing the initial recovery phase, 90% have not returned to the street
- Twenty one participants were repeaters to the PDI
- All of the repeaters to the PDI have relapsed