SPRINGFIELD – City and county officials announced on Tuesday the formation of a county-wide effort to combat prostitution and human trafficking by targeting those who seek sex for money rather than those who supply it.
“Don’t come to Springfield looking for sex because we will be looking for you,” said Deputy Springfield Police Chief William Cochrane.
Officials pledged that that the latest effort to curb prostitution will be different from those prior in two ways.
The first is it will focus on demand – the men who come to the city seeking to buy sex – rather than men and women who supply it. The second is the enforcement will be continuous, and not something done occasionally like prior anti-prostitution sweeps.
“This will not be a once-every-seven months thing,” Cochrane said. Enforcement will be continuous and systematic. “Our intent is to keep the pressure on.”
The new approach, named the Human Trafficking Enforcement and Education Initiative, was announced in a press conference at the South End Community Center by Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Sheriff Nick Cocchi, and Mayor Domenic Sarno.
Gulluni said many of the women and men who work as prostitutes do so because of mental health issues or because they need money for drugs. The focus calls for treating those who work as prostitutes as victims, or people who need assistance, rather than criminal prosecution.
Police who encounter people working as prostitutes will seek to establish a relationship and let them know of services available to help them should they desire it.
The prosecution will be reserved for the customers, officials said.
Sarno pledged that anyone coming to Springfield who is arrested for soliciting prostitution will have their name and photo publicized in the press.
Cocchi said the Sheriff’s Department is also forming a special 4-hour court-mandated program for anyone convicted of soliciting sex for money, which he called a “john school.”
This is a developing story and more information will be added later.