Assembly tables vote on prostitution prosecution immunity
A lengthy discussion at Tuesday night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting ended with a vote to postpone action on an ordinance that would provide prosecution immunity to people engaging in prostitution who report serious crimes to law enforcement.
The measure would mirror recent changes to state law through SB 91, Alaska’s crime reform law, which now provides immunity to prostitutes seeking to report a violent or heinous crime.
“I’ve worked off and on for 10 years in Alaska’s sex trade,” said Amber Batts to assembly members, “For several months, when I was working, I would get a call from a gentleman always asking about procuring a minor for sex acts. I was not able to contact any authorities about this guy, instead I was only able to put him on Craigslist to let other people know,” she said, adding that had the ordinance up for discussion been in place, she could have reported him to police.
Batts was one of five women with knowledge of Alaska’s sex trade industry who spoke out in favor of the ordinance. One read a statement to Assembly members from a sex worker who wishes to remain anonymous.
But the deputy chief of the Anchorage Police Department said drawing on his 38 years in law enforcement, he has some concerns about the ordinance.
Some assembly members agreed with him, saying the language of the ordinance needs clarification to prevent people from using it as a legal loophole.
“So, in that sense, anything I witness, I don’t want to report, I want to keep it for my ‘get out of jail free card,'” Assemblymember Croft said during the discussion. “If I’m ever charged with prostitution, I can say I witnessed an assault and I want to tell you about it now that I’m being charged.”
The assembly voted to go back to the drawing board and tweak the wording of the ordinance, with help from the municipal prosecutor. The ordinance is scheduled to appear on the agenda for the assembly meeting on June 27.
Assemblymember Felix Rivera, a sponsor of the ordinance, says 20 other states have laws with similar immunity language.
APD’s deputy chief told the assembly in the last 18 months, there’s only been one case of prostitution in Anchorage.
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