State legislature cracking down on prostitutes, beggars

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 25, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 25 at 5:21 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

BATON ROUGE -- Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East and Tulane Avenue in Mid-City are notorious for prostitution activity in New Orleans.

State Representative Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, says local law enforcement groups asked him to handle a bill to give police more tools to stop the illegal sex trade.

"Right now, they have to actively be engaged in some kind of dialogue with an undercover officer before an arrest can be made," said Badon.

The Badon bill would strengthen the state's solicitation law.

"My bill simply says you cannot engage in any activity like flagging down a vehicle to draw up a ride or exchange money, which is is what they're doing," said Badon.

Badon says his bill would also cut down on the number of people begging on New Orleans street corners.

"Those people are actively working to be able to get your money and they're paying their cellphone bills, they're paying their computer bills. It's a racket, so nobody should give them money," he said.

It's unclear if the Badon bill will meet constitutional muster. Recently the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down another anti-panhandling law, ruling that begging is a protected form of free speech.

Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Majorie Esman is not sure the bill even applies to panhandling.

"It's tied to solicitation for sexual activity," said Esman. "Simply asking someone for money and nothing else is not at all covered by this bill."

Esman questions whether the bill solves a problem that doesn't exist. "Whether it's good public policy to have ways to continue to feed people into a criminal justice system when their not doing harm to other human beings."

"It would improve our quality of life. It would get these people off the street," said Badon. The Badon bill passed out of the full House by an 89-0 vote. It will now be debated by a Senate committee.

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