The New Brothel?

Allan Appel Photo“The sex workers there! My god. My grandchildren are playing on the front porch, and they have to see that!”

That’s how longtime Exchange Street resident Cindy Calvert expressed her concern about a significant, in her view, an uptick in prostitute activity in the dumpster area behind the Fair Haven School, which faces Grand Avenue and backs into Exchange Street.

The array of blue dumpsters, in Calvert’s view, are the culprits — not necessarily the sex workers or the cops who do respond to her calls. If the dumpsters, which provide concealment, were removed, that might make a difference, she said.

That idea, among others to address the problem, was at the heart of a lively discussion Thursday night at the most recent monthly meeting of the Fair Haven Community Management Team (FHCMT).

Calvert and several other old-timers in the neighborhood acknowledged that sexual activity has been going on there for years, late at night and early into the morning hours. Calvert said the activity is visible to young children walking to school.

She has all too often seen women changing clothes or performing sexual acts by the dumpsters. Other factors help conceal the activity, she said, like a lack of lighting.

She said she’s been in touch with the Board of Ed several times, and yet the activity goes on. ‘I have no complaint against the cops,” she said. “They get there,” but the women don’t seem even to scatter, she said, when officers arrive.

Calvert wondered aloud if there is a pause in arresting prostitutes.

Fair Haven District Manager Lt. David Zannelli acknowledged there is a pause in effect, while the city reexamines its policy toward arresting prostitutes. (Click here to read about that.)

A great believer in lighting as a deterrent to unwanted activities, Zannelli said the more LED lights put in at that location, the better.

Another attendee at the meeting mentioned that available outlets on the outside of the school building also draw the sex workers there to recharge their phones,

Fair Haven Alder Ernie Santiago suggested the dumpsters be fenced in and the truck drivers needing to empty them be given a key. Another participant suggested that the dumpsters be put flush against a building to help to drive away the activity.

Board of Ed Chief Operating Officer Will Clark sent an email saying the problem is primarily a criminal issue. He praised Lt. Zannelli for providing increased enforcement in the past to eliminate the problem from school property.

“We have taken steps to deactivate the outlets and have increased lighting as part of our LED project. We are also in the process of working with DPW to replace all the blue dumpsters. While we do not have a lot of options at relocation, we can strategically work to place the new dumpsters,” Clark wrote.

FHCMT Co-chair David Steinhardt asked if Will Clark had provided a timeline for when sufficient LED lights would be substituted. He urged the alders to nudge Clark in this regard.

“End of the day,” Clark added in his email after the meeting, “we need folks to report criminal activity around schools and we will work with the PD to eliminate this activity as proactively as possible.”

Which was precisely the end-of-meeting advice Zannelli reiterated for Calvert and others: “If you see people” engaged in public sex or other illegal activity, he said, call the police “and also follow up with a text to me.”

Police Department Spokesman Officer David Hartman further added in a follow-up email that cops have recently focused on the quality of life impacts to communities where prostitution is more prevalent and the need to afford sex-workers resources and a means to get out of this dangerous “business”.

“In other words, we’re likely not arresting our way out of this problem,” he said. “We’re not ringing the dinner bell for ‘Johns’ either. If we develop probable cause that someone is in New Haven to patronize a sex-worker, we’ll arrest them.”

He further pointed out that sex-workers are some of the most vulnerable people in a community.

“They’re more often victims of assaults, rape, and abduction,” he said. “A way out is often very difficult. We’d much rather see them find that way than add to the problem by piling on criminal charges. All of this said, prostitution is a crime and we’re not hiding from dealing with it.”

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posted by: cunningham on July 6, 2018  12:50pm

Why not legalize it?

posted by: OhHum on July 6, 2018  1:49pm

Ostensibly it is legal in New Haven. The police have a moratorium on arresting prostitutes. That’s why they are not leaving the area when they see the police coming. The cry went out not to arrest prostitutes. The City complies, because they don’t want to punish women for making a living. And now people squawk when the prostitutes are having sex on the street. What the hell did you expect? The people who have to see sex acts in their neighborhood will just have to deal with their diminished quality of life issues. Or perhaps the City can give aid to prostitutes by building sheds on the Green for sex act purposes. Air conditioned and heated of course.

posted by: Atwater on July 6, 2018  2:06pm

Put up some lights! How difficult is it? Also, since this is in a school zone all of the prostitutes and johns should be arrested, tried and convicted as sex offenders and forced to register with the State. And, how about a fence or some type of gate? There are so many easy, affordable solutions to this problem. How about a guard dog?

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 6, 2018  3:31pm

Officer Hartman’s statement shows the beginning of a new approach to policing and a new appreciation of the vulnerable populations involved.
    No person should have to witness another engaging publicly in a sex act, but arresting sex workers and their customers has failed to solve the problem.
    Having worked in the past with the Sex Worker Allies Network (SWAN), I heard painful stories of childhood rape, sometimes over a course of years, the turning to drug and alcohol to dull the pain, dysfunctional relationships and most painful of all, the loss of children they gave birth to and so wanted to mother successfully.
    Sex workers have been treated as the lowest of the low, when really they were the most vulnerable of all, children subjected to sexual exploitation and with no one to protect them.
    At a minimum we owe them safety and a decent standard of living. And we owe them this without any expectations.
    For all of these reasons, I have submitted this proposal to State Senator Looney and State Representative Al Paolillo for consideration:


  Whereas there currently exists laws in the General Statutes of the State of Connecticut that prohibit prostitution, and
  Whereas sex work is a symptom of both economic distress and the lack of options, is often coupled with serious abuse during a sex worker’s childhood and may be coupled with the illness of addiction, and
  Whereas the criminal justice system has become a “revolving door” for sex workers, fails to provide adequately for opportunities for rehabilitation and has limited programs to provide outside the criminal justice system, and
  Wherefore sex workers are subjected to harassment and abuse because of the
criminalization of their efforts to survive, now
  Therefore, all laws relating to the criminalization of sex work and sex workers shall be abolished, effective upon passage of this bill by the State Legislature.

posted by: Atwater on July 6, 2018  5:09pm

Legalize sex work? This isn’t Nevada. Sex work should remain illegal, especially sex work performed in public, behind a public school! Both the customers and the prostitute should be arrested, fined and made to register with the State as a sex offender. While we can be compassionate to one’s hardships, we should not allow those hardships to act as an excuse for a blatant violation of such a basically fundamental principle of society. Don’t have sex in public behind a dumpster that is next to a school!

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 6, 2018  5:44pm

@Atwater: why should sex work be illegal? What does that accomplish?
  More women are prosecuted than are men, not that I want any one prosecuted, but it’s another way in which women are targeted for selective prosecution.
  No one is arguing that sex behind a dumpster next to a public school is desirable. The question is, what is an effective way to eliminate such activity. Prosecutions don’t work and victimize already traumatized people. By the way, there are male sex workers too.
    If something doesn’t work, why do we continue to do it? Criminalizing sex work doesn’t stop the activity. It makes it less safe for all involved.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 6, 2018  6:43pm

How about locking up the political prostitutes..

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 6, 2018  8:27pm

Why does the poll not ask whether pimps should be targeted with sting operations? How many of these women are genuinely independent entrepreneurs, and how many are, basically slaves to a pimp?  That’s the real ethical issue in this business, surely.

posted by: 1644 on July 6, 2018  9:27pm

Atwater:  Using the law to regular private sex lives once was a basic principal of society.  Any homosexual act was illegal,  fornication outside of marriage was illegal, and some acts were illegal even when performed between married couples.  Today,  sex for money remains the last vestige of the regulation of sexual activity between consenting adults.  If two people exchange sex for money, whats the harm?  Sure, it trivializes what should be a sacred act,  but so do tindr and other cheap hook-ups.

The problem here isn’t that money is being exchanged for sex.  The problem is that desperate, pathetic, broken people are doing so in public, largely because that cannot afford to do it in private.  Legalizing protestation might remove some of the demand, but it would still exist. (Note, in the UK , prostitution is legal, but “kerb crawling” is not.  Nonetheless, street prostitution and kerb crawlers persist.)

posted by: alphabravocharlie on July 7, 2018  7:51am

Whatever happened to the charge of Loitering on School Grounds.

posted by: ShadowBoxer on July 7, 2018  8:05am


The idea of making customers and prostitutes register as a sex offender is pardon the pun, bone headed.  A designation of a sex offender is a life sentence to isolation, poverty and very often suicide.  Why would you do that?  The sexual urge is what makes the species survive - it is hard wired by God, or nature.  It was only with the advent of puritanical and prurient Christianity that sex took on such a stigma.  Obviously the sex acts should not occur in full view of the public or a school, but criminalization is wrong, even evil.  Every person now and then craves sex, it is not dirty, it is beauty.  Neither johns nor prostitutes should face criminal sanctions - this is work between two consenting adults, as as such should be legalized and regulated and taxed.  The stigma against anything sexual is really outdated and unscientific.

posted by: LookOut on July 7, 2018  9:12am

Agree with threefifths and Oh Hum….prostitution is clearly legal in our city based on the way that our politicians sell themselves. 

And there is a solution - put up cameras.  No one wants a video record of their behavior.

posted by: T-ski1417 on July 7, 2018  4:42pm

The only thing we OWE prostitutes is a night in jail along with their johns. Male or female I don’t give a crap.

posted by: Atwater on July 7, 2018  5:52pm

Prostitution dehumanizes, both the prostitute and the john, but more so the former. It is another symptom of the disease that is human commodification and exploitation. And, as many have pointed out it disproportionately affects people who are already marginalized and have been victimized. Allowing prostitution does nothing but perpetuate an environment of victimization and criminality, it does not address the core issues and problems, i.e. drug addiction, sexual assault, poverty, etc. Consent cannot exist between a person who is so poor or strung out, or both, that they cannot say no. Instead of legalizing prostitution we should instead endeavor to help the poor and the addicts so that they won’t need to turn to putting themselves in harms way in order to survive.

And, to 1644, any sex act, consensual or not, performed in a school zone usually requires prosecution for a sex crime, therefore the perpetrator, if convicted, should be required to register as a sex offender.

posted by: 1644 on July 8, 2018  10:30am

Atwater: All sex acts in schools zones are illegal?  So, if my wife and I lived next door to a school, we could not have “marital relations”, even missionary? If that’s the law,  it’s a ridiculous one.  The problems here is not prostitution. It the open solicitation and consummation of sex acts, which would be bothersome to most (but not Wendy), regardless of whether money is exchanged.  On the other hand,  I don’t see the harm in two consenting adults meeting at a hotel or brothel.  It’s legal for people to hook-up via tindr or Ashley Madison and not exchange money,  why does exchanging money make it worse for society?  Note, the woman who accompanied the former NY Governor to DC got $5K for the weekend.  I have a hard time seeing her as exploited, and certainly cannot see why the state should expend it’s resources prosecuting such acts.

posted by: ShadowBoxer on July 9, 2018  12:31pm

The state is dead last in job growth and highest in taxes.  Young people are fleeing, and New Haven just laid off teachers and guidance counselors because they can’t afford them.  Yet some in this thread want to use taxpayer money to POLICE private consensual sexual conduct.  I’m sorry, but this is not 1880s Alabama, this is 2018 Connecticut and sexual behavior is normal and healthy and needed for the species to survive.  The US is barely at a replacement rate population wise.  Yes, I have qualms about the very destitute who are exploited, but it is not the states role to inquire about consent absent some bright line bottom line rule, like age for example.  I definitely appreciate the sentiment expressed by Atwater, but the idea “consent cannot exist between someone who is too poor…” opens the door to the state policing and abolishing all types of private contracts.  This MAY be the aspiration, as I think “predatory” lending is wrong, but in an era of expanding personal liberty among millennials, like gay marriage, casino gambling,  legal recreational weed, how do you still criminalize sex work?  I don’t want the resources of a limited state invested in policing the dynamics of sexual relations absent asking about age and physical duress or force.  I would much rather spend the money hiring back teachers than hiring cops to police a sex act.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 9, 2018  1:01pm

To decriminalize sex work is not to condone or encourage it.  Programs like LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) will one day provide services to sex workers who want to move from this often dangerous work to something else. Sex workers are no different from any of us. They want a home, a family, safety, the opportunity to raise happy children, jobs. Their early exploitation short-circuited all that.
  I have enjoyed the comments on this topic and am pleased to see so many thoughtful responses that support getting the government and the police out of these issues and directing social services to address them instead.
  The women and men who have been in sex work have their own voices and they are powerful. If all goes well, they will tell their stories in public hearings in the State Legislature because hearing their stories does change people’s minds. They changed mine.
  As a society, we can move from condemnation to compassion AND have a better society for all.

posted by: JCFremont on July 9, 2018  1:59pm

Well legalize it and tax it that’s the anwer right? Of course once legal we will still have the above problem. Face it, we know those evil rich people will “gentrify” it. Bring back the “Tenderloin” districts. I imagine top madams will be heading New Haven’s Chamber of Commerce.  I’m sure in the legislation there will be a let’s say, a 11% brothel tax to subsidize low-income services. Wonder how long until a Yale or Quinnipiac Co-ed realizes that those student loans won’t pay for themselves and “re-purpose” a sorority house? Might be the answer to all those reports of rape on campus.

posted by: Atwater on July 9, 2018  2:00pm

1644: I should’ve clarified, sex acts on school grounds (not zones) is an automatic sex offense. These dumpsters are behind the school, but I believe still on school grounds. Also, for the issue of school zones, if the act was occurring in public view or access, then yes, the act would be sex a offense regardless of consent of parties.

Not to get all Marxist here, but all workers are exploited to a degree, sex workers are perhaps the most exploited among us. The exploitation is direct and apparent. Yes, one might make a few thousand dollars for their “work”, but think about what they are selling and to whom and what circumstances brought them to make such a transaction. Imagine the danger that they put themselves in and the almost non existent methods of redress if something does happen to them. There is no OSHA for prostitutes, no worker’s compensation, etc. The worker is simply used and then discarded. Prostitution is the epitome of complete alienation and subjugation.

Shadowboxer:I do understand the reproductive necessity of sex and, believe it or not, I understand the non-reproductive necessity. However, we’re talking about sex acts in public, as addressed in this article. Sex acts in public on or near a school yard, which are and always should be against the law. Prostitution in general should also be outlawed, for reasons I have addressed above. It’s not the act (sex) which should be seen as indecent and therefore illegal, but the sale of one human to another which should be illegal. And, I honestly think that the more severe penalties should be levied against the customers. The bright line rule should be quite clear, you cannot sell nor can you buy a person in order to have sex with them. Where the law and the state fail miserably is providing avenues in which prostitutes could actually flourish in other types of work .

posted by: 1644 on July 9, 2018  5:03pm

Atwater: “Imagine the danger that they put themselves in and the almost non existent methods of redress if something does happen to them. There is no OSHA for prostitutes, no worker’s compensation, etc. “
  Which is precisely why it should be legalized: to protect both buyer and seller.  We can have brothels like we have strip clubs and massage parlors.  Normalizing sex work would bring it figurative out in the open.  At a brothel,  both parties could be physically protected, and brothels could be, like strip clubs, located in industrial/combat zones.  You are correct that all employee relationships are somewhat exploitive, but sex work need not be more so,  so long as one doesn’t imbue sex with a mystical quality.  Frankly, paid work may be more open and honest than a lot of other hook-ups today.
  No, legalization won’t stop the most desperate from working the streets, but it could mop up some demand if customers had a safer alternative.  (Similarly, a generous guest worker program wouldn’t stop illegal immigration, but would dry up some demand for immigrant workers.)

posted by: challenge on July 9, 2018  9:29pm

Since we are empathetic to the vulnerable in our communities will drug dealing become another “no arrest” policy since we know we will never arrest our way out of the drug trade? Since we are seeking this new age thinking will the department conclude drug dealers (not the ones in the white coats with MD after their name) should not be arrested and instead be offered help? I personally don’t care what adults do with their bodies but I most certainly have a problem with innocent children (and myself for that matter) having to witness it. Sex workers cannot be allowed to perform sex acts in public without consequences. What kind of society are we turning into? Does this mean we are now eliminating indent exposure as a law? What do we do if a man chooses to masturbate in public? Should his inability to control his urges be acceptable because sex is a natural thing? Come on people sometimes we go too far with empathy for some while totally disregarding others in need.

posted by: EveyHammond on July 9, 2018  11:03pm

New Haven should create another program. How about all the residents who support legalizing it clean the dirty sheets after each John. I think it would be instructive because it would give them a solid dose of reality.

We’re the “All American City”. We should support sex work through taxes.

Oh, and hand out condoms and dispose of them properly.

We need to be more supportive of sex workers plight. Nevermind taxpayers or children, they dont count.

And, now, let uneducated Evey Hammond bashing begin.

Im sure @ seth poole, etc will all try and chastise me because my libertarian beliefs…

posted by: JCFremont on July 11, 2018  10:37am

@EveryHammond. The problem is that the term Libertarian has been corrupted and co-opted. To many modern “Libertarians embrace the view that individuals have the right to do as they please,  but want the apparatus of large social programs if your pursuit of happiness ends in you being broke, legally responsible, sick or injured, basically they want to be bailed out. The original Libertarians where for a small government. Have a friend who identifies as a Socialist/Libertarian. He a sole entrepreneur. Have also some identify as a socialist/anarchist which I’d really like to see the instruction book for that one.