Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo
Their mug shots and names will be posted on the Police Department's website and made available to the media for widespread publication.
“This is a campaign of shame against johns that has been done in other cities with some success to cut off the market for prostitution. If people want to come into Buffalo from the suburbs looking for prostitutes, they can expect that … they will be arrested … have their vehicle seized and … have their picture posted on our website,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said Friday.
For years residents on the East Side and West Side have complained about how prostitution attracts strangers to their streets, leading to drug dealing, assaults, robberies and other crimes.
Color photographs and names of suspected johns will be released “in the near future” at www.bpdny.org, Derenda said.
The arrests will come as part of an ongoing sting operation dubbed, “Here's Johnny,” said Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards.
So far detectives have arrested more than 35 individuals, including a 70-year-old Town of Tonawanda man on Thursday.
“We're done. We're not going to allow these people coming from the suburbs to use our city as a playground for their illegal activities,” Derenda said.
Mayor Byron W. Brown said the initiative is aimed at taking the profits out of prostitution. Brown said suburban johns are the culprits that perpetuate prostitution.
“They are coming from outside the city, and we want to stop this criminal behavior and with it reduce other types of crimes in the city,” Brown said.
Residents in neighborhoods harmed by prostitution cheered the decision to single out johns.
“I would love to see photos of johns. I see a lot of the prostitutes in the neighborhood, and if these men from the suburbs wouldn't patronize them, we could put the prostitutes out of business,” said Patra Mangus, who has lived in Broadway Fillmore more than three decades.
Prostitutes, she said, have been so brazen at times that they would sometimes stand beneath a street light in front of her Fillmore Avenue home.
Marlies A. Wesolowski, executive director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center on the 1000 block of Broadway, says she, too, is aware of just how brazenly prostitutes and johns can behave.
“We had a situation where one of the hookers was using the flatbed of an employee's truck. That was a few years ago, and it was right in broad daylight,” Wesolowski said. “If it humiliates a few people, shames them and makes them feel uncomfortable, I'm all for it and kudos to the police.”
Other regions in the country have employed this tactic and say just the idea of being publicly exposed frightens off would-be johns.
A sting called “Operation Flush the Johns” in Nassau County, Long Island, two months ago resulted in the arrests of 104 suspected johns and the publishing of their photos and names.
“Not only do people have a right to know who their prosecutors and police are arresting and charging with crimes, but we know that the commission of specific crimes is dramatically affected by the perceived risk of getting caught,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice said.
A female Buffalo detective found out firsthand the harshness of the prostitution business.
As she was posing as a prostitute at the intersection of Fillmore Avenue and Howard Street, a pimp approached her and demanded money.
“You have to pay me to work this corner. I'm a pimp and I own this corner. I'm gonna get my boys and come back for you,” he told her.
The alleged pimp, Ikqual LaValley, 30, was arrested by surveillance detectives and charged with promotion of prostitution. The Buffalo sting has two teams of detectives working day and night shifts.
In the past, police have conducted sweeps to arrest prostitutes, but they kept returning, which was what prompted “a new way of doing business,” in going after the johns, Derenda said.
Not everyone is pleased or thinks the department's plans will curtail prostitution.
Buffalo defense attorney Herbert L. Greenman, citing past newspaper stories in which the names of johns were published, said the family members of those arrested end up unfairly punished.
“I understand the concept, and I suppose anybody arrested is subject to public scrutiny, but what I learned that was really unfair about it was the fact that their families, wives and children, suffered the brunt of it. The names of the fathers would be in the newspaper and the kids would go to school and be ridiculed and their wives as well,” Greenman said.