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8/5/2014
Ohio Town Backs Down On Anti-Crime Road Barricades
Cincinnati, Ohio decides to stop blocking roads to avoid federal lawsuti.

BarricadeOfficials in Cincinnati, Ohio were tired of seeing prostitutes take over parts of the city. The city council's solution to the problem was to put up barriers that block off key roads. Although the city recently backed down in the light of a resident revolt, officials released a report Monday trumpeting the blockade's success.

The city council voted on April 30 to close three sections of West McMicken Avenue with temporary barricades that shut off access to the Mohawk neighborhood. Residents who drove around the barriers would be stopped, questioned and searched by police. City councilmen argued the program worked.

"Within the first 30 days of the project, fifteen out of the seventeen regularly observed McMicken corridor prostitutes were no longer present," interim city manager Scott Stiles wrote in a memo to the council. "The two remaining individuals were observed near McMicken Avenue and Dunlap Street."

The Cincinnati Police Department has run various sting operations and crackdowns, but city officials insist that those measures, without the barricades, were not been enough.

"Prostitution related crimes and calls for service were reduced and some of the known prostitutes were removed from the streets as a result of accepting referrals for housing," then-city manager Milton Dohoney Jr explained in a 2012 memo. "Unfortunately, those that accepted help were quickly replaced by new prostitutes arriving from the suburbs that have become addicted to heroin and have resorted to prostitution to pay for their addiction."

Low-income residents who had their neighborhood blocked off filed a federal lawsuit demanding that the barricades be pulled down. Vanessa Sparks insisted the scheme was unconstitutional.

"Plaintiffs and others similarly situated are being penalized without having committed any crime," Sparks argued. "Plaintiffs and others similarly situated are being singled out and treated differently from other citizens of the city of Cincinnati simply because of where they live."

The city did not feel confident about winning the challenge, so it dropped the barricades a day before a judge had set for a hearing on a temporary restraining order against the city. The city council will discuss the issue further in its meeting on Wednesday.




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