The Phoenix City Council Thursday unanimously approved an ordinance that imposes new fees for soliciting prostitution on offenders who have been convicted more than once. Because there is often a link between prostitution and human trafficking, resources collected from the fines will be used to benefit victims.
“Phoenix is committed to being a leader in combatting human trafficking,” said Mayor Thelda Williams. “Today’s actions toughen penalties for Johns and help those who have been victims of sex trafficking.”
Under the amended city code, a $2,000 fee will now be imposed for a second conviction, $2,250 for a third conviction, and $2,500 for each subsequent conviction. The fees imposed on convicted offenders will be directed toward the newly established City of Phoenix Anti-Human Trafficking Fund that will benefit Starfish Place, the nation’s first long-term housing project for victims of human trafficking that opened last year.
“Prostitution solicitation and human trafficking continue to be a worldwide tragedy,” said Councilman Jim Waring, chair of the Phoenix Human Trafficking Task Force. “Phoenix is committed to having the toughest possible penalties imposed on those who abuse victims in our city.”
Last year, 15 Phoenix Police operations involved buyers of sex. From these operations, 64 men were arrested. Phoenix police also conducted a store front massage parlor operation, which resulted in an additional 86 arrests as part of the massage parlor “sting.”
Also in 2017, the Vice Unit rescued 62 juveniles who were victims of human trafficking. Although cases with juveniles are not prosecuted in the misdemeanor system, the number of juveniles rescued demonstrates the enormity and tragedy of human trafficking.
Those convicted for the first time of soliciting sex acts from other adults are required to spend 15 days in jail and complete a court-ordered education and treatment program. Mandatory jail time increases to 30, 60, and 180 days for second, third and fourth convictions, respectively.
Many defendants are eligible for a diversion program for a first-time arrest for soliciting prostitution. Defendants are responsible for paying the $800 fee for the class. The class teaches, among other topics, the ways that prostitution harms the defendant, the person solicited and the community.
The court may also impose jail costs for anyone booked into jail or serving a jail sentence. Currently, the court may impose a fine of up to $2,500 for each conviction, but is not required to do so.