'Johns' may encounter new city fee

Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr is proposing new fees for people caught soliciting prostitutes and wants the money spent on more police vice-squad stings and on programs to help prostitutes turn their lives around.

Under the proposal submitted to the City Council yesterday, people arrested for soliciting prostitutes would have to pay a $500 fee if they entered a "diversion" program allowing them to avoid prosecution.

Those who enter the diversion program now waive their $75 bail fee, Carr said. The new fee would be on top of that.

The extra money would go to the "Sex Industry Victims Fund," a new city account that would pay for counseling and other services for prostitutes.

Carr's plan also would require that money confiscated by undercover officers in prostitution stings be funneled to the Police Department for further anti-prostitution operations.

Carr said he offered his proposal after seeing a lack of money for anti-prostitution efforts.

A 1996 city ordinance mandates a $150 fine for conviction of soliciting a prostitute. That money was supposed to bolster a state fund to pay for treatment programs, but only $50,000 has been raised so far because 70 percent of those arrested for soliciting prostitutes enter diversion programs and never pay the fine.

Carr said he considered strategies such as a "John school" that would require people, mostly men, arrested for soliciting prostitutes to learn about the lives of illegal sex workers. But he said the recidivism rate for those convicted of solicitation is already low. So he decided to focus on raising money for better services for prostitutes.

A city fiscal analysis estimates the new law could raise $125,000 a year for the anti-prostitution efforts.

City Councilman Jim Compton has agreed to sponsor the legislation, which is scheduled for a public hearing at 2 p.m. tomorrow in City Council chambers at the Seattle Municipal Building, 600 Fourth Avenue.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com.