Southeast Calgary community demands action on prostitution
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2019 5:18PM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 13, 2019 6:38PM MST
Residents who live in Forest Lawn say they’ve had enough of the sex trade in their community and are lobbying police and city council to take action to curb the issue.
Those that live along 19 Avenue S.E. say they’re fed up with how brazenly prostitutes proposition johns in the area and it’s a major safety concern.
“I have been out here after midnight and I’ve never seen a cruiser go by,” says James Ryder. “I have been out here for four hours watching the problems because we have drugs and everything around here.”
Ryder says more than anything else, police should step up service in the district because it’s part of their service contract.
“That’s what we see during the day and at nighttime. You’re lucky to see a cruiser go by.”
William Carnegie, president of the Forest Lawn Community Association, says the stretch of road is called ‘The Stroll’ by many in the neighbourhood and the problems associated with it have been around for the past 15 years.
“It’s gotten significantly worse over time because nobody has been paying attention to it.”
He says men and women are propositioned while they walk down the street, so it’s a real safety concern.
“When you have somebody pulling up beside you that you don’t know, that’s looking for something that will not be providing.”
In order to solve the problems in his community, Carnegie would first like to see more lighting.
“If you drive down 19 Avenue right now, the lighting is abysmal. It’s very, very dark. It’s really conducive to negative activity. What we’d like to see as an immediate change would be some lighting.”
Carnegie says they’d also like to see some increased presence from Calgary police too.
“Prostitution isn’t illegal, so that’s not what they’re going to be able to address, but really what I would like to see is an increased police presence on that strip being a deterrent from people stopping to use that for picking up prostitutes.”
Sergeant Ray Hostland with the Calgary Police Service says there is a beat team that is looking at the issue on 19 Avenue S.E., but it’s not just about enforcement.
“I think right now, especially with the sex trade workers, we’re trying to help them. I think that’s the only way to get them off the street; helping with their issues and their addictions.”
Hostland says he’s been in the district for over 10 years and prostitution has been an issue on 19 Avenue that whole time. Past stings on johns have resulted in a lot of charges, he adds, but haven’t proven to be much of a deterrent.
Police aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference in the prostitution that occurs in Forest Lawn.
The Victory Outreach Church has a program specifically designed to help women who are trying to get out of the industry and rebuild their lives.
“’Her Victory’ is a ministry here in the heart of Forest Lawn and what we do is we reach every working girl in this community… that’s been affected or sexually exploited. We know it’s a problem in this community and we’re here to be a part of the solution,” says Jacquie Meyer, crisis coordinator.
To help, Meyer and her colleagues provide hot showers, counsel, support, clothing, food and many other things to sex workers who need them.
“Every case is different and so anything they might need we just open up as a community and provide direction and support.”
She says they have a lot of success stories through the program too.
“We’ve had girls that have had success as far as they have been transformed through the program and now they have families, they have working jobs and they are actually volunteering in this ministry. We just see that as a huge success.”
Carnegie says the work that the Victory Outreach Church is doing is great.
“Somebody has to do it. These are issues that are going to be present in society whether it’s in one location or 10. It’s just very convenient for them to have all of their clientele in one location and so close. It’s unfortunate for the rest of the community that is has to exist but it is a necessary part of the community.”
The Forest Lawn Community Association will be holding an open house in early March to help gather input on the issue and their proposals on how to change them.
For more information on the Victory Outreach Church and their ‘Her Victory’ program, you can go to their website.
(With files from Shaun Frenette)