Sex Work

Parking in 'Designated Area of High Prostitution Activity' Could Get Your Car Impounded in Spokane, Washington

What the plan lacks in likelihood to yield results, it makes up for in ensuring police harassment.


People suspected of soliciting prostitution in certain areas of Spokane, Washington, will have their cars impounded by police. The city has marked these areas with signs proclaiming them a "Designated Area of High Prostitution Activity," and the Spokane Police Department's (SPD) Special Victims Unit will be conducting stings in the area in March.

Under a new city ordinance—effective February 25, 2015—an officer can impound the car of anyone arrested (not necessarily convicted) for "patronizing a prostitute," "promoting prostitution," or related offenses if thir "vehicle was used in the commission of the crime" and the arrest takes place in this designated area.

"If you're soliciting prostitutes, you may think twice if you see a sign that says we're going to impound your car if we catch you," said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. That seems plausible, indeed. What doesn't seem plausible is "high prostitution activity" not simply shifting to elsewhere once the signs go up. Why would sex workers or clients continue to frequent areas that the city is announcing as targets of increased police stings and enhanced penalties? 

What the plan lacks in likelihood to yield results, however, it makes up for in ensuring police harassment of people who visit these neighborhoods. As part of the new efforts, Spokane police and business owners in these area have been going door-to-door encouraging residents to "say something" about suspected sex trafficking.

"Citizens are encouraged to write down the license plate, vehicle description and the suspect description of individuals believed to be" soliciting sex, Spokane CBS affiliate KREM 2 reports. "Spokane Police said they will follow up by contacting the registered owner of the reported vehicles." 

Who thinks neighborhood residents and police will avoid bringing biases to their assessments of who looks suspiciously like someone looking to buy or sell sex? 

Under the new ordinance, Spokane police can also impound the vehicles of individuals caught soliciting sex anywhere in the city if their vehicle is used and the individual has a previous prostitution-related arrest. "Although women engaged in prostitution are not the focus of this initiative, it is still important to recognize the need to connect these women to resources such as counseling, housing and job training," notes SPD in statement about the law.

NEXT: This Man Was Found Innocent, But the Cops Kept His $30,000 Anyway

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. And to the “cop” that would enforce this nonsense, YOU are just as bad as the people that conjured up these “statutes”.

  2. The city has marked these areas with signs proclaiming them a “Designated Area of High Prostitution Activity,”

    Finally, a street sign STEVE SMITH can read!

    1. I like how they’re encouraging commerce. Good idea, Spokane!

    2. High Prostitution? Is that like high tea or High Anglicanism?

      Maybe they’re referring to Eliot Spitzer-level whores as opposed to Hugh Grant-level?

      1. More like Agile Cyborg-level, if you catch my drift…

  3. “And that’s when the whores come in!”

    …worth another shot

    1. Dude, wouldn’t this be more appropriate?

  4. I actually might be visiting Spokane pretty soon. I guess I’d better be careful not to go in those areas, because I don’t know if I look like a prostitution solicitor or not. Does the pimp jacket give me away?

    Also, I’d like to point out that these special interest obsessives have wide-ranging deleterious effects beyond just being annoying. They cause political pressure that causes the cops to focus on pointless shit like this for appearance, and that of course 1) causes other real crimes to be given less focus, and 2) causes extra harassment for people who get caught up in the bullshit. But you’ll note that the obsessives do not give one tiny little shit about that.

    1. ENB’s earlier hooker story linked to the Houston Chronicle story about 64 men arrested for soliciting. Commenters there went all, “THANKS FOR WASTING TAX DOLLARS, ASSHOLES”. It was a refreshing change of pace.

    2. Spokane is my nearest city. I go there frequently for the airport and a few other city needs. There are no “high prostitution areas”. Sprague St is considered the “bad” area, but I’m from Long Beach, CA so Spokane ghettos don’t scare me one bit.

      1. The Sprague corridor definitely has a lot of hookers. It probably wouldn’t be unfair, if one were engaged in an academic discussion of the topic, to call it a “high prostitution area”. But I suspect if they weren’t deterred by that little flap with a serial killer, the signs probably aren’t going to shut it down.

    3. Make sure to support the local economy while you’re there – buy some meth.

  5. It’s not that big a town, how are there actual prostitution “zones” in a city that you can walk across in 40 minutes?

    1. Never mind. I just checked the tuition rates for Gonzaga and I can guess where the “zones” are.

    2. They’re adjacent to the meth zones…it’s a sort of symbiotic thing.

      1. Is that because missing teeth are a desirable trait?

        1. Dunno, but removable teeth could be

  6. This puts Epi in an awkward position since his mom’s house is a designated area of high prostitution activity.

    1. Yeah but she has special entrances and tunnels for clients. And I’m not talking about her body.

      1. She has special entrances and tunnels on her body, too.

    2. It’s like Tom Wolfe said, you can never go home again.

  7. “Designated Area of High Prostitution Activity,”

    So people can’t park near the Capitol Building?

    1. Nice.

  8. They should merge the designated prostitution areas and the designated smoking areas, so I don’t have to smell smoke OR sweaty genitals on my way in to work.

  9. My wife when we were dating lived a half block from a park that was notorious for prostitution. I would never think to rat out anybody. It was harmless. It was mostly just sad to see a disgusting-looking prostitute hop in a car at 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.

  10. Logic fail. Might as well include the entire city limits. An internet search with “Spokane high-end escort” was educational.

    1. Let me guess, you found someone selling a 1992 Escort with all leather seats and an upgraded stereo system?

      1. New paint job, a licorice dispenser and I’m in business, baby, yeah!

  11. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8012 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here… ……

  12. How hard would it be to come up with a list of “license plate, vehicle description and the suspect description of individuals” matching the employee records of the Spokane Police Department and the City of Spokane? Just asking for an Anonymous friend.

  13. This sort of insanity is happening all over Washington right now. And that’s the state Maggie McNeill just moved to. She’s really going to have a lot to fight against.

    1. East side of the state is very “we don’t approve of that kind of behavior ’round these parts”. West side is very statist. Throw in the cost of living and Washington state is a fun place to live!

      It’s so pretty here, and so not worth it.


    Why doesn’t this “Libertarian” blog pay more attention to the egregious encroachments on personal liberty which are committed by the right-to-life movement?

    If “Libertarian” doesn’t mean actively pro-choice on abortion, then it doesn’t mean anything. Any blog which calls itself “Libertarian” should track, name, and shame right-to-lifers in government, who are trying to extend the hand of big coercive government into doctors’ offices and into women’s genital organs.

    1. 6/10 too earnest

    2. Mr frog, abortion has been mentioned a few times, but the commentariat expressed such a strong, monolithic consensus that the issue got few responses. So HnR has dropped for lack of interest.

  15. Duh, Maybe they could legalize it for adults and spend their time pursuing crimes that have VICTIMS; same with drug ingesting and gambling…..

  16. I lived in a neighborhood where solicitation traffic was a nuisance– car fumes, drunken customers, used condoms, etc., so I understand why residents might support this.

    (1) These problems would go away if sex workers were nudged toward *legal* on-line advertising like Backpage.
    (2). Seizing cars for a minor offense *should* be reckoned a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “excessive fines.”. Let the city first demonstrate that they routinely seize cars for dangerous offenses like drunk driving.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.