Friday, March 11, 2011

2011-03-11 "Guardian Angels bedevil prostitutes as group patrols areas of Vallejo" by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
Aware of a reported escalation of prostitution along parts of Sonoma Boulevard, the Solano County Guardian Angels made a show of force there and elsewhere in the city Wednesday afternoon.
Though a group spokesman said they were able to get several suspected prostitutes to "move along," a Sonoma Boulevard business owner said he doubts the effort's efficacy.
Local Guardian Angels leader Omar Martinez said a contingent of more than a dozen Guardian Angels split up into several groups and spent from about 2 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, patrolling the city, including the waterfront, Georgia Street and Millerville.
"We were able to run a few of the prostitutes off the streets, by deterring the johns from picking them up, just by being there and watching," Martinez said. "We don't approach them, but we don't move, either. So they move on."
The neighborhood watch group that for some months has actively monitored prostitution activities downtown is likely the most effective approach under way now, said Dave Taylor, who for several weeks has operated an assets liquidation sale at Sonoma and Louisiana Street. And Taylor questions if the Guardian Angels' efforts will have any lasting results.
"I am generally in favor of the Guardian Angels and I think they do a good job all over the country. And I know there's a problem here. I'm in the thick of it right here," Taylor said. "But I don't think a one-time show for an afternoon is going to do anything.
"The policein this town have too many other fish to fry, and most of them, they tell me themselves, don't live in the community and have no stake here," Taylor said. "The so-called 'Ho Watch,' which is funny but also a little derogatory, seems to be the most effective thing."
Martinez disagrees with Taylor's assessment.
"The business owners down there have been asking us to come down, and we do patrol all over, all the time, but this time we came as a large group to Sonoma Boulevard, so we were more visible," he said.
At one point Wednesday, Martinez said several men he and his group believed were pimps, tried to intimidate them.
"Some of the pimps came out of the woodwork. So, we got on the radio and we came en masse, and they decided to walk away," he said. "We do what we do and see how we can work with police and get this situation taken care of. We find the pimps, the prostitutes, the drug dealers -- they see us show up and try to avoid us."
Group members have been trained on how to deal with prostitutes, he said.
"We've trained in places where things are even worse, like Oakland and Richmond, for instance," Martinez said. "And what we have here is nothing compared to what they have down there."
Martinez said he knows the Guardian Angels are unlikely to solve Vallejo's prostitution problem, but hopes to put a dent in it.
"Are we going to get rid of it? No," he said. "But we hope we can make people feel safer."

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