Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Taking it to the streets

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front09082007.jpg I spent a night earlier this week doing something that, sadly, far too many men in this community do.Trolling the streets for sex-workers.Only I wasn't interested in buying sex. Or anything for that matter.Myself, along with reporter Gabrielle Giroday, were trying to get a better read on what goes on after dark in the city's bustling sex trade.And bustling it was. As you can read in our exclusive Saturday Free Press feature, the streets were alive with the sights of young girls peddling their wares and all-too-eager "Johns" shopping around.08a7street03bmBM[1].jpg (Click HERE to read "Fear of death all in a night's work"Click HERE to read "Victim's friend chases clues to catch killer"Click HERE to read "Dates pay the mortgage, independent call girl Maggie saysClick HERE to read "Woman found way off street, mours slaying of friend")We were surprised at how willing some of these women were to talk to us, which might be a sign that they recognize the increasing dangers they face on the streets given the fact several sex-trade workers have been slain in recent months with no arrests.Is a serial killer at work? Some women definitely think so. Yet it became painfully clear few are doing anything to protect themselves from the risks they face every night despite the fact a killer, or killers, are still out there.We saw many girls working alone, standing on dark streets with nobody around for blocks. Who would ever be able to tell police about the specifics of their last pick-up should they leave in a vehicle and never return?It was obvious that a certain paranoia about police exists and that sharing information about what they've seen is not on their list of priorities.The most common theme - which didn't come as a surprise - was the prevalence of drugs, specifically cocaine. Many women we stopped and spoke with candidly admitted they are slaves to the drug and routinely expose themselves to danger because they need to feed their addiction.I've said for several years the biggest problem in Winnipeg, and many other major Canadian cities these days, is cocaine use.Nearly every crime that occurs - from the theft of your car, break-in to your home or that drive-by shooting you read about - can be traced back to crack.It's also clear to me that government has been far too slow to respond to the needs of the community and offer the kinds of services that are desperately needed.I'm also really beginning to think we have hit a point where we must consider throwing in the towel and admit prostitution is never going to go away. That we've lost the fight, if you will, to clean up the streets.That's because the demand for paid sex will always be there. And when you have demand, supply is usually quick to follow.I admit I'm somewhat ashamed for my gender that so many of "us" feel the need to prey upon the weak and vulnerable to satisfy "our" carnal pleasures. I'd challenge any of these Johns to actually walk a mile in these girl's shoes. Or just spend a night watching and talking to them like we did.I hardly think they'd see them as easy scores. They would see them as victims, plain and simple.So what to do?Many women we spoke to on the streets this week said they believe the only way to reduce the violence is to legalize prostitution, build some safe-houses and bring in a level of control that currently doesn't exist.It's certainly not a new idea. But it sure is a controversial one.But if we truly want the killings to stop, it may be the only way.Agree or disagree? Got another idea? Post your thoughts below.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.


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