WASHINGTON -- D.C. police will spend the rest of August cracking down on prostitution downtown.
Until Aug. 30, the area around Fifth and K streets is a prostitution-free zone, News4's Craig Melvin reported. Prostitutes caught working the zone will get a warning, then face a $500 fine and/or 180 days in jail.
"The goal is to try to disrupt prostitution in the area," said D.C. Police Capt. Mike Gottert.
Under a law approved by the D.C. City Council in 2006, for 10 days D.C. police have broader authority than usual to go after people they suspect of solicitation, Melvin reported.
"They don't necessarily have to be caught in the act of prostitution," Gottert said. "If they're congregating, officers can tell them, 'Hey, you can't be in this zone.'"
"It's not going to change just because you put a sign up," said Kaiya, who has worked the area for three years. "Worst case scenario, you just move further down, move to another location."
Busboys and Poets is right in the middle of the prostitution-free zone. Owner Andy Shallal noticed the signs Friday.
"I looked at it and laughed," he told Melvin. "I said, 'August is vacation time, so maybe prostitutes need vacations, too.'"
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Street-walking hasn't hurt his thriving business, Shallal said, and he doesn't think the signs will accomplish anything.
"Whatever the crackdown is, it's just gonna be a photo-op, basically, for the cameras to say, 'OK, we're doing something,'" he said.
Shallal wishes the city would address the root causes of prostitution, like abuse, poverty and drug addiction.