Moves to strengthen Dallas’ no cruising laws to clamp down on prostitution and sex trafficking in recent weeks have provoked a lively debate.
While supporters said an extension of the city’s ordinance would help police to tackle sex crimes, opponents claim they are a threat to civil liberties comparing them to maligned stop and frisk laws. They fear it could pave the way for racial profiling. The city council voted unanimously to extend its no cruising ordinance to parts of Walnut Hill Lane, Shady Trail, Harry Hines Boulevard, and Southwell Road, reported the Dallas Observer.
The law defines unlawful cruising as a driver passing through the same control point in a no cruising zone three times within any two-hour period. A violator can be ticketed and find up to $500 for cruising in one of the zones.
Police believe they can help control crime by cutting traffic congestion in these areas.
However, some residents have compared the no cruising laws to “stop-and-frisk,” a discredited practice that raised concerns police were randomly searching suspects in certain areas.
Opponents of the law said the cruising restrictions could open the floodgates for racial profiling in these zones, a valid criticism made of stop-and-frisk.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires police to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed before a suspect is stopped.
The laws are intended to address a very serious issue in Dallas. According to New Friends, New Life, a Dallas-based nonprofit dedicated to survivors, as many as 400 teens are sold for sex on the city’s streets every night as part of a thriving sex trade.
Council member Adam Bazuldua initially opposed the extension of the no-cruising zones, which he feared would turn into “tools of oppression.”
“This is looking at whoever you want to pull over, and we know through data who that is, and being able to with no recourse because this covers you,” Bazuldua said.
He changed his mind after riding along with the police who he said demonstrated care for the victims of the crimes, the Observer reported.
Council member Omar Narvaez also had a change of heart after a ride along with police. He moved to approve the ordinance with the stipulation that police department presents data each year to prove its success or otherwise.
Many public speakers at a recent City Council Meeting said city should be helping women trapped in prostitution rather than creating a new mechanism to write tickets.
However, Dallas Police Department Lt. Gerald Smalley pointed out the sex workers have been offered alternative diversion programs. He told a recent meeting none of them have gone to jail on prostitution charges, a common practice in the past.
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