Mount Rainier business owners said they didn’t want potential customers worrying about what else was for sale in the city and requested city officials remove anti-prostitution signs.
The two signs were posted about three years ago at the request of the City Council, and sat on the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Eastern Avenue and Varnum Street and Eastern Avenue, said Mount Rainier Police Chief Michael Scott. City Council members instructed staff to have the signs removed at the Oct. 2 meeting, because they agreed the signs gave the city a negative image. The signs were removed on Thursday.
Councilman Jimmy Tarlau (Ward 1) said the signs may have been a good idea a few years ago when concerns about prostitution along Rhode Island Avenue were larger, but today they were no longer needed.
Scott said that he could not provide data on the number of complaints or arrests in the area due to prostitution, but said that the problem had largely subsided.
“It is not an attractive thing to have in our community,” Tarlau said. “It’s a minor thing, but it does not help our image.”
The signs warned those who engaged in prostitution that they would “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” and that their names would be posted in the media.
Brooke Kidd, treasurer of the Mount Rainier Business Association, said many community groups were working hard to ensure that Rhode Island Avenue and the city improves its look, but felt the signs reinforced the opposite image.
“The sign actually kind of advertised blight,” said Kidd, who is also the executive director of Joe’s Movement Emporium. “And we are doing all we can to clean up the appearance of blight.”
In the spring and summer of 2011, Mount Rainier and Prince George’s County Police partnered to launch four undercover sting operations to break up the prostitution operations on Rhode Island Avenue. The stings netted 43 arrests, mostly of solicitors of prostitution and a handful of prostitutes, Scott said.
Mt. Rainier police have also increased walking, Segway and bicycle patrols along Rhode Island Avenue, which have helped to reduce crime on the street, he said.
Scott said he has not gotten a complaint about prostitution in the area for about eight months. He said the enforcement actions by police were what caused the drop in prostitution, and he did not believe that the signs were effective when it came to preventing people from engaging in the crime.
“They did not do us any good,” Scott said. “They brought more negative attention than prevention.”