Harris County

County Sues to End Prostitution in Southwest Houston with Unprecedented Measure

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan wants to create the ‘Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone’

A photo provided by the Harris County Attorney’s office shows what the office says are prostitutes working in the so called ‘Bissonnet Track’

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced Wednesday what he said was a first of  its kind lawsuit to stop the prostitution and human trafficking that occurs in the so called ‘Bissonnet Track’, in southwest Houston.

Ryan’s office, which is collaborating with the Houston Police Department (HPD) in this initiative,  is asking for a temporary and permanent injunctions to create the ‘Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone.’ 

The ‘Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone’ covers an area north and south of Bissonnet Street from Highway 59 to the Sam Houston Toll Road.  The area has apartments, retail businesses, churches, banks and restaurants, as well as an elementary school.

The lawsuit aims to forbid 86 named defendants, namely pimps, johns, and prostitutes, from entering the zone. If they happen to be in the area, they would be forbidden to engage in any activities that lead to buying or selling sex or other crimes.

This aerial image provided by Ryan’s office shows the area in question:

Potential jail time

If the defendants violate the injunction, they would be in contempt of court and subject to a fine or jail time or both.

According to Ryan’s office, each of the defendants has been arrested in the ‘Bissonnet Track’ for a prostitution-related crime and many of them have multiple arrests. 

Additionally, several of the defendants are currently charged with aggravated offenses related to sex trafficking and aggravated assault.

The lawsuit includes an “opt out” provision that would permit a defendant who has been a victim of sexual assault or human trafficking to receive social services and opt out of the injunction.

Ryan noted that “many women engaged in prostitution have been coerced” and added that “many are brought from other countries and even from small communities around the United States with promises of jobs.” That’s why the County Attorney is including the opt-out provision.

Nearly 4,000 crimes

The lawsuit points out that, more than any other area in Houston, the ‘Bissonnet Track’ attracts buyers and sellers of sex from all over the country. According to Ryan’s office, HPD received reports of nearly 4,000 crimes in the area from January 2016 to July 2018 and one-fourth of them were related to prostitution.

Mayor Sylvester Turner emphasized during a joint press conference with Ryan that “Houston is at the forefront of targeting traffickers and pimps.”

You can watch the press conference here:

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