Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Neighbours in the North End trying to shame away johns

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Russell Jackson and his wife Tanya Czermerynski are trying to discourage the sex trade in their neighbourhood to protect their 11-year-old daughter, Mary Joe Jackson.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Russell Jackson and his wife Tanya Czermerynski are trying to discourage the sex trade in their neighbourhood to protect their 11-year-old daughter, Mary Joe Jackson. Photo Store

Residents near the intersection of Charles Street and Burrows Avenue are fighting to take their corner back.

They felt the migration of prostitutes to the neighbourhood -- followed by the steady stream of johns -- was exposing their children to sex and drugs on a daily basis.

So Russell Jackson took action. He put up a large white sign at the intersection about a month ago threatening to post the licence plates of johns who frequent the North End neighborhood rife with sex-trade workers.

"That's what made me put them up," said Jackson, leaning on the fence of his property Tuesday. "No kids need to put up with that. Enough is enough.

"The johns doing what they're doing and the girls doing what they're doing, it just defeats the purpose of parents trying to teach their kids that they're not an object."

Nearby signs read "Stop 4 a Date, YouTube UR Plate" and "Stop 4 a Date, Report UR Plate." So far, between 40 and 60 neighborhood residents have begun to post licence-plate numbers on the Facebook page "stop4adate."

Across the street from Jackson's home -- which is the residence of several children -- there is a church under renovation. Kitty-corner is a synagogue. But by late afternoon, residents in the area say Charles Street is often populated by girls and women between the ages of 14 and 30, selling their bodies to a never-ending stream of cars with lone male occupants.

"I'm sick of it," added Jackson's wife, Tanya Czermerynski. "It's totally ridiculous. I've seen girls out there that might have been 14 or 15."

City police don't endorse Jackson's campaign, but have done nothing to discourage him, either. A police cruiser circled the block twice during a half-hour period Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, the only resistance has come from the sex-trade workers themselves -- many are from the same neighbourhood -- who have said they have been verbally abused by residents. The sex -trade workers even put signs up of their own. One read, "Riddle me this: After you called a 16-year-old girl an 'unwanted crack ho' is she more or less likely to consider taking drugs?"

Jackson's counter: "I don't mind. I love the feedback. But we don't need this. Our kids don't need to be propositioned. Our wives don't need to be propositioned."

Still, one woman interviewed on the street Tuesday -- who described herself both as a "counsellor" and "sex-trade worker" -- didn't disagree with residents posting licence-plate numbers or cracking down on neighbourhood pimps.

"If you want to put some pressure on people, put it on the johns," she said. "The screaming of 'dirty whore' at hookers walking down the street... not OK.

"Women are already at the bottom of the totem pole," she added. "Drug dealers, johns, women in the sex trade. They're being victimized already."

The woman, who didn't want to give her name, added she wasn't sure how many of the men trolling for sex would be deterred by the threat of getting their licence posted. Some already pick up prostitutes driving company vehicles. All of them are already risking arrest, heavy fines, john school and the possibility of being exposed.

"Do you think wives are looking up YouTube and looking up 100 licence plates posted every day?" she asked.

Residents repeatedly said they understood the plight of the women. They just want them to relocate while the streets are teeming with children.

"After dark, we don't care," offered resident Cheryl Richards. "It's during the day when they're walking around half-dressed with high-heeled shoes. That's all we're asking. Take it somewhere else. We want our corner back.

"We've already got to watch our kids like hawks," Richards added. "It's one of the worst neighbourhoods in the city. We've got drug dealers to worry about, much less outsiders coming in to scoop up our kids."

Richards also believes that once word spreads in social media, the threat of posting plates will be a deterrent. "Once this takes off, damn straight wives are going to start checking it out. They should," she said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Critics say posting johns’ licence plates just moves prostitution to other neighbourhoods. What should we be doing to fix this? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 6:10 AM CDT: replaces photo, changes headline, adds question for discussion

7:42 AM: Corrects slogan "Stop 4 a Date, Report UR Plate"

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