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Billboard to display solicitors of prostitution

By BISHOP NASH

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the battle against prostitution, usually fought in darkness by undercover officers, Huntington Police have added a very public weapon that Chief Joe Ciccarelli hopes catches a few eyes.

Billboard

An electronic billboard, located at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 20th Street, will begin displaying the faces of men convicted of soliciting prostitutes as a deterrent against future offenders.

Ciccarelli said academic research suggests publicly outing customers, rather than prostitutes themselves, is one of the most effective tools in attacking the prostitution problem.
Thursday night the sign posted a simple warning, and Ciccarelli said the sign should begin posting offender photos around Sunday or Monday pending legal processing. The billboard, located near Joan C. Edwards Stadium and Fat Patty’s, will post photos of offenders at random.

Although many offenders may post bail at magistrate court, avoiding jail and the dreaded mugshot, Ciccarelli said police have many options when gathering a photo.

Those include photos from previous offenses, Department of Motor Vehicles photos, on-scene photos taken by officers and social media posts.

After reporting that the last four customer arrests were all men from Ohio, Ciccarelli said the billboard especially deters men seeking to keep anonymity by traveling out of town. He added that crossing state lines to solicit prostitutes is a federal offense.

The public display is also designed to deter additional crimes committed by prostitutes against customers.

Ciccarelli said prostitutes may feel emboldened to rob or assault customers who will not complain to police for fear of incriminating themselves for soliciting a prostitute.

Another electronic billboard bearing a warning against prostitution is also in place at the corner of 22nd Street and 3rd Avenue. A stationary billboard is scheduled to be erected in the 800 block of 6th Avenue within a few weeks.

All billboards are owned by Lamar Advertising and have been commissioned by Huntington Police for one month. Ciccarelli said while they were given a variety of location choices by Lamar, they wanted to pick a spot that was widely visible. Ciccarelli said the department could renew its contract for the billboards if they prove effective.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.

We asked our Facebook followers to weigh in on the idea. You can join the conversation, too, by visiting us at www.herald-dispatch.com or www.facebook.com/theheralddispatch. Here is a sample of their responses:

Desiree Wheeler: “Great idea!!”

Lynn LaMance: “Yes it’s public record!”

Barbara Plybon: “That should take care it”

 

Mark Johnson: “I think it’s a dumb idea but if HPD decides to do it, keep it fair … I want to see local law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, etc., on that billboard if they get caught…”

David Jetline Asal: “Right near the football stadium?? Yes because our town needs to go public to all visiting teams and their fans that Huntington pays for sex.”

Diana Hanshaw Cornell: “How about we put child molesters and drug dealers up there?? Prostitutes and their customers are disgusting but I’m much more worried about child molesters and drug dealers than two consenting adults whose actions would be perfectly legal if the men didn’t give the girls money afterwards. This is NOT going to do anything for the drug problem…”

Sophia Mills: “No. This is too far. Public humiliation is completely unprofessional coming from our justice system and does nothing to better the condition of the women who resort to prostitution.”

Thom Boggs: “Might be more effective if it were placed near where the prostitutes work.”

Lile Cremeans: “Seriously? They couldn’t find a better spot than right in front of the football stadium?? Not that the visiting teams bring many fans. But what a great message to be sending to visitors. Wow! It makes it look like Huntington has a major prostitution epidemic. That’s the message you want to send?”

Shonda Otwell: “That’s a great idea! If you don’t want to be publicly humiliated then stop (using) the (prostitutes). It’s public record anyway. Who is paying for the advertising?? Well… who is paying for them to be arrested and contained? I believe they are the same people.”

Crystal Quick Johnson: “WONDERFUL IDEA!!! Absolutely! I say use every Billboard to display pictures names ETC… GENIUS…”

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