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With the Pickton murders haunting them, police and city set new policies to make sex work indoors an option

December 18th, 2012 · 7 Comments

With the release of Wally Oppal’s report from Missing Women Commission of Inquiry now out, there’s been a lot of examination in what police (and everyone) did wrong.

(Note to self: Media might want to look at why so many weren’t interested in this story in the beginning, until Vancouver Sun reporter Lindsay Kines started doggedly pursuing it.)

There will also likely be a lot of discussion about what should be improved.

But, as I discovered as I was researching my Vancouver magazine column for the issue out next month, there have already been some changes made. Police reports on prostitution, and arrests I’m guessing, have plummeted in the last 10 years, now a tenth of what they used to be. The Vancouver police department has a new draft policy on dealing with people involved in sex work, and an officer, Linda Malcolm, dedicated as a liaison to the sex-worker trade.

The city has also been looking at its bylaws and licencing to deal with sex work taking place at operating businesses (some with permits, some without) in different ways, so that its staff are targeting actual problems (noise, exploitation, criminal behaviour, coercion, neighbourhood disruption) as opposed to trying to regulate the sex business.

We often think of women on the street when we think of sex for sale. They are the most visible aspect of any city’s usually flourishing sex trade, and they are the ones who are the most vulnerable.

But a growing group of researchers, policy makers, women working in the business, and others are making clear — in spite of the criticism they get from others — that they represent only 10-20 per cent of the sex industry in any town, and that sex workers are far better off doing business indoors than on the street.

Here’s my story, in advance.

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