In nine short months Houston will host the biggest and best sporting event of the year. The Super Bowl. In regards to showing off to the country and potentially bringing in more convention business, to paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, if Houston is waiting for the opportune moment this is it. However, the city still has a significant amount of work to do in order to make a good impression on visitors. Three areas in particular are littering, prostitution, and soliciting donations on street corners .
Littering is the easiest to address. Remedying littering involves both cleaning up the mess as well as reducing the littering so that the problem doesn’t reoccur. This is simply a matter of documenting and enforcing the laws already on the books. The city already has adopt a highway and adopt an esplanade programs in place. Simply encourage the entities who have adopted to go out and clean. When they do so, especially the adopt an esplanade category, turn in any personally identifying litter to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution. It’s a simple matter of correlating the found litter with the already existing surveillance systems in place at the businesses nearby. This gives video evidence of when/where the litter takes place and should be sufficient for successful prosecutions of littering citations. Law enforcement could go a step further and specifically target observed littering while on routine patrol. Publicizing the effort made will have a chilling effect on littering and can reduce the reoccurrence.
Prostitution is going to be a little bit more involved. A certain portion of the incoming visitors are going to want prostitution so there’s going to be an influx of prostitutes from around the country Super Bowl week. Since the market can’t be effectively eliminated the area for action is to reduce the local presence away form the venue. While superficially this is a matter of enforcing the current laws on the books, it’s not as easy to obtain evidence as the littering issue. While it’s fundamentally unfair to attack the problem only from a remove the prostitutes angle, the realities of safety and evidence gathering dictate that approach. Let me explain.
I recently married, and had a hand sewn Versace tae kwon do uniform made for the ceremony. Which I was not allowed to wear. Being rather unhappy with both the situation and how the situation was handled, I wore a fire engine red coat to the wedding as red was one of the theme colors. I work on Bissonnet, and as a joke decided to wear the coat and walk a ways on Bissonnet to see what would happen. This was a Saturday morning, and every time I crossed paths with what I believed to be a prostitute broke out in my best Joey from Friends “How you doin’.” Less than 15 minutes into the misadventure a large angry male approached and suggested I was encroaching upon his territory and it was best I leave. Not that politely, but you get the idea. It’s simply not safe to plant new girls to pose as prostitutes in a sting action.
This leaves with making a sting action against the prostitutes themselves as the most fruitful action. There’s enough time to make random stings throughout the known prostitution areas in the city. Don’t just do this once, but rather do so 2-3 times. This both avails the courts of the opportunity to set a steeper bail for the subsequent offense, as well as allows for stacking as set forth in Texas Penal Code 42.o2. Why seek stacking? As the offense level rises there’s an opportunity to get cooperation from the prostitute in a plea deal to prosecute those organizing or compelling the prostitution under Texas Penal Code 42.04 or 42.05. The latter is especially more likely once the convictions stack as it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under section 42.02. This essentially back doors a path forward to go after the organization rather than just the prostitutes themselves.
Street corner solicitations is a more dicey proposition. On one hand, there’s a need to provide assistance for those who cannot make ends meet for whatever reason. It’s more humane and less expensive to allow individuals to solicit on street corners than to incarcerate for shoplifting or burglary if someone is truly in need. On the other hand, the city also needs to come up with a better way to prevent the generosity of its citizens from being abused. A permanent solution, even a workable solution, isn’t going to be easy to find. Thankfully, a permanent solution and a working solution doesn’t need to be found for the purposes of cleaning up the city before the Super Bowl. Simply decree that the current ordinances against solicitation are going to be strictly enforced starting a month before the Super Bowl. And not only enforce, but if need be deem entering into the street to solicit an obstruction of traffic and therefore a separate offense. The idea is to have a clean image for the event; leave a solution to this problem for another day.