The State’s Attorney’s office announced on Thursday that it received a grant allowing it to double the city’s prostitution diversion program, and some North Baltimore residents hope it will help address the Charles Village prostitution problems.
Diversion programs offer drug and psychologcal treatment and employment assistance to help break the cycle of prostitution involvement. The grant of nearly $128,000 will allow the diversion program to double the number of people who can participate at one time to 80.
Despite those efforts, some Charles Village residents believe more needs to be done. Peter Duvall, an Old Goucher resident, often leads midnight walks with other residents to try to move prostitutes out of the neighborhood.
“My opinion is that various efforts and programs can have an effect on who’s on the street and how many, but I don’t see the programs in and of themselves solving the problems,” Duvall said.
Duvall said he was not certain how effective the prostitution diversion program is regarding transgender prostitutes, who are a large part of the problem in Old Goucher and lower Charles Village.
He said he still feels law enforcement has to be a large part of addressing prostitution in neighborhoods, especially when the prostitutes are creating a nuisance for residents.
"[The expanded diversion program] is probably a good thing, but I don’t think that’s a solution ... itself, and I don’t think there’s one single solution,” Duvall said.
Diana Mitchell, coordinator of the Charles Village Community Benefits District’s safety program, said expanding the program would help.
“I think it will definitely aid us and the work we'0re doing with the Northern District [police] in terms of really tackling the situation,” Mitchell said.
She said prostitution is a major concern for residents in the neighborhoods that make up the district, along with drugs and burglary. She said she receives three to five calls a day from residents complaining about prostitution.
Complaints are often about prostitutes being aggressive in approaching people and being disrespectful of property, Mitchell said. During a recent meeting attended by State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, Charles Village residents said in the area.
From when the diversion program began in August 2009 to March 2011, 1,256 people who have been charged with prostitution were evaluated to verify eligibility for the program, according to statistics from the State's Attorney's office. Of that total, only 545 were considered eligible but only 278 were accepted into the program because of resource limitations.
With the $127,984 grant from the Abell Foundation, the program will be able to double the amount of people able to participate at one time from 40 to 80 people.