Prostitute customers face stricter fines

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU-- (KHNL) Habitual patrons of prostitutes are now facing stricter punishments now that a new bill is signed into law. But will it clean up our streets?

The bill is part of an effort to clean up the city, of a crime that's dirtied the area for years. Sex may sell, but officials say they hope the new law returns our streets to a safer, less violent community.

Like cats, prostitutes patrol the night in places like Waikiki. Lingering and luring solicitors of sex.

" I think it's a big problem, prostitution an all sorts of crime, I see it every night when I'm walking home," said Waikiki resident Tyrone Heen.

"They come in here, they're regular people. They're nice girls. We don't have a problem with them," said Waikiki resident Jade Cone.

But the problem may not just be with the prostitutes, lawmakers say it's also the people purchasing their services. The new law makes penalties more severe for those johns. If they're caught soliciting sex three times in three years, it now means a misdemeanor offense.

"This is going to put more teeth into our efforts to eliminate prostitution," said Hawaii Representative Tom Brower.

Representative Tom Brower says while not a solve all solution, it will make seekers of sex think twice.

"We don't have all the answers but if we start to put the building blocks together and come up with an all-encompassing piece of the puzzle, then I think we can end prostitution," said Brower.

"It's just not the kind of image we need to have here in the islands, for visitors especially the people who live here," said Heen.

A problem that peaked in the 1990's with as many as 300 prostitution related arrests a year, statistics show it's not as bad now thanks to heavier enforcement.

"It's bad for the Johns and it's bad for the prostitutes. This is something we have to eliminate to move forward as a society," said Brower.

A plan to punish those who pay prostitutes, lawmakers say they hope it's a message that safety will soon stroll back onto our streets.

A member of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board says that while it had no official position on the bill before it became a law, any measure with stricter enforcement will be a good thing for the area.