Billboards won’t solve Huntington’s problems

A Daily Mail editorial from the Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Huntington officials have proposed a controversial way to crack down on the city’s pervasive prostitution problem.

As the Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported last week, electronic billboards throughout the city will soon begin showing pictures of men arrested for soliciting prostitutes.

Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli told a reporter that academic research shows publicly outing customers is one of the most effective tools to crack down on prostitution.

The secondary goal is for the billboards to deter additional crimes related to prostitution, such as drug use or robbery. Ciccarelli said prostitutes may be more likely to rob or assault customers because those customers won’t report the crimes out of fear of incriminating themselves.

Even those who avoid jail — and a mug shot — could find their images on display. Police may access “photos from previous offenses, Department of Motor Vehicles photos, on-scene photos taken by officers and social media posts,” according to the newspaper.

Ciccarelli and Mayor Steve Williams deserve credit for their willingness to tackle an issue that has affected Huntington for years. Certainly, prostitution and solicitation are illegal and those arrested and convicted of committing those acts should be punished accordingly.

However, publicly shaming and humiliating men who are suspected of soliciting prostitutes, not to mention their families, doesn’t get to the root of the issue…

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