Police tell residents that Penn-Knox prostitution crackdown will continue

Officials with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Citywide Vice Enforcement Unit have pledged to continue cracking down on prostitution activity in the Penn-Knox section of Germantown.

“Consider it done,” Sgt. Irvin Riley told residents during a 14th District Police Service Area meeting in Mt. Airy on Tuesday night.

Residents from the small swatch of neighborhood have been struggling with the illegal trade there for years. At least a handful said they’ve spotted sexual acts unfolding in cars, side yards and alongside a nearby church.

Complaints filed with the 14th District, which includes most of Penn-Knox, recently led to two undercover operations where six women were arrested on misdemeanor charges. Vice has made a total of 32 prostitution-related arrests in the district in 2011, said Riley.

He said officers will continue to arrest women caught working in the area, but added that his unit can start going after customers as well.

“The johns aren’t prosecuted any worse than the girls are, but they have more to lose.” Riley said.

Added Lt. Mark Overwise with the 14th District, “If you can attack the demand, then the supply will move.”

Riley, who has been with Vice for five years, said he rarely sees the same man seeking out services in the same area after he’s been arrested.

After the meeting, Knox Street-resident John Scherer said he was encouraged by Riley’s words, but hopes that police can target his neighborhood for more than just an operation or two.

“The right people heard our concerns,” he said. “The real problem is going to be keeping the pressure on. If he does another sting I could see this issue going away for another month, but the real issue is longer term – them putting on the pressure for three or four months. I think maybe then we’ll see a difference.”

Neighbors at the meeting said they are preparing to be trained by Town Watch to patrol the area.

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