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So what exactly can be done about prostitution on 82nd Avenue? The rise in the sex trade along east Portland's main drag this summer has prompted plenty of conversations but little consensus. A year ago, City Council members killed the "prostitution-free zone" that ran along 82nd Avenue amid concerns about its constitutionality. Police, who could arrest known hookers, pimps and johns just for showing up on the street, now must catch them soliciting or offering sex.
The street has other problems. Poor planning and zoning have resulted in a dearth of streetlights and sidewalks, and a flood of lingerie shops, strip clubs and pornographic book and video stores.
But now, at least, people along Portland's most complicated street are talking:. Who's talking. In the past few weeks, Oregonian reporters have interviewed several dozen neighbors, activists, police and prostitutes while reporting on the rise in calls on 82nd Avenue and the debate over how to respond. The comments here were collected in those conversations and a recent public meeting on the topic.
All acknowledged that they were or had been prostitutes. None was arrested. Sara Fischer is co-founder and board president of Rahab's Sisters, which offers a weekly open house for sex workers and other women on Friday nights. Why is 82nd Avenue such a magnet for prostitution? Back when this used to be the city border, it's where you could go to get away with anything. There's that history here.
I have clients who are 50 years old now who were working 82nd 30 years ago. Neighborhood activist Dawn Rasmussen: "There's been no planning. There's been no zoning. You have neighborhoods without streetlights or sidewalks, plenty of streets that are still unpaved. And what happens when you have chaos is more chaos.