Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 28, 2012

Anonymous letter calls for solution to prostitution problems in Princeton

PRINCETON — Stricter laws that would keep people convicted of prostitution in jail longer is one way to address the continuing problem along Mercer Street and other parts of Princeton, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

Mayor Pat Wilson and Chief P.V. Powell of the Princeton Police Department were among the city officials who received an anonymous letter calling for the city to curb prostitution. The letter had no signature, but was signed “Concerned Citizens of Princeton.” It arrived at the Princeton Municipal Building in an envelope with no return address, Wilson said.

“I think anybody who lives in town or comes through town is a concerned citizen,” Wilson said, who added that the letter “could have been written by anybody.”

When a letter concerning a problem arrives without the name of the person or persons who wrote it, city officials cannot sit down with them to address the issue, Wilson said.

“If I am going to write a letter and I have an issue to address, I will certainly sign my name to it,” she said.

The letter’s writer or writers called for greater efforts to keep prostitutes from conducting their transactions, and named Mercer Street as the area with the most activity.

“The purpose of this writing is to bring to your attention a horrendous problem within our town. The prostitutes are taking over our streets. The numbers are escalating and these individuals are becoming increasingly visible,” the letter stated.

Problems the letter’s writer or writers connected with prostitution included prostitutes darting into the streets to meet parked cars and the customers of prostitutes disregarding traffic laws while driving down Mercer Street. Prostitutes trespassing in parking lots and on private property was cited as another concern.

“We are all concerned and we all would like to see our streets cleaned up,” Wilson said.

The police department is addressing the prostitution problem, but prostitutes are soon out of jail and back on the streets, she said.

“Our officers are doing their job,” Wilson said. “We need to have stricter laws that keeps them (in jail) for a while once they have been arrested.”

Besides state laws regarding prostitution, there are also federal laws to work with along with the issue of overcrowded prisons, Wilson said.

“It is an ongoing thing and we’ve got ongoing operations on it,” said Chief P.V. Powell. “We’re not finished with it.”

Police have to obtain evidence that there was a transaction between a prostitute and another individual before an arrest can be made, Powell said.

“We have to have something on tape and all that,” he said. “You can’t just walk down the street and say ‘you’re a prostitute.’ You have to have proof there is actually solicitation going on.”

Powell said he had not received any complaints concerning traffic problems caused by prostitutes, and added that officers are at Mercer Street every day.

Wilson said bringing the city’s offices to Mercer Street could help alleviate the problem. The city has purchased the former First Community Bank building and plans to move city hall and the police department there.

“I believe once we move city hall downtown and we have a police presence on Mercer Street, I think it that will be a deterrent to them,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we will ever completely eliminate the problem, but it will help.”

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