Prostitution ordinance recommended in Point after recent sting
By Gene Kemmeter
In order to combat the growing trend of prostitution in Stevens Point, police are recommending a new prostitution ordinance be created.
The Stevens Point Public Protection Committee agreed, and recommended Monday, March 12, that the city create an ordinance governing prostitution.
City Attorney Logan Beveridge said the Police Department requested the ordinance similar to the texting ordinance in order to provide more prosecutorial tools to combat a growing trend in the state and area regarding prostitution and exploitation of young persons.
Beveridge said the ordinance encompasses state statutes 944.30 to 944.34, which prohibit prostitution, patronization of prostitutes, soliciting prostitutes, and pandering and keeping a place of prostitution. By adopting the reference to the statutes instead of individual paragraphs, he said, the ordinance will always stay current with state law.
The ordinance carries of a fine of $500 plus court costs. which brings the total to $691 for the ordinance violation, he said, which is lower than other municipalities.
Police Chief Martin Skibba said he will confer with officers and Beveridge and possibly bring back an amended forfeiture amount Monday, March 19, when the Common Council will act on the ordinance.
Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner said prostitution activity is happening in Stevens Point, and the department ran a sting operation a few weeks ago, putting out a spoof ad that more than 100 individuals responded to in six hours, leading to four arrests.
Zenner said police were aware of the activity but didn’t know the extent of the situation, which included some concerns that victims were being set up for robbery. He said police have been contacted by local hotels periodically when the hotels became suspicious about guests, but the instances have been increasing in other communities so the city wants to be ready.
The ordinance follows those in Grand Chute and Wausau, where the crimes have increased in recent years, he said. The fine in Wausau ranges from $2,000 to not more than $5,000, he said, and he thought Grand Chute had a $2,000 fine.
That’s what prompted Skibba to say police will review the proposed fine to see if it shouldn’t be increased before the Common Council acts.
Zenner said having the ordinance gives authorities more leeway in dealing with individual cases, providing prosecutors with the option of charging an individual with a felony or a city ordinance violation, depending on the severity and circumstances of each case.
“This gives an opportunity to (work) with victims,” said Skibba.