Nassau exploring 'johns school' for solicitation busts

Nassau DA Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police Commissioner Nassau DA Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale announce the results of "Operation Flush the Johns" in Mineola on June 3, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau County went after people patronizing prostitutes last year with its "Flush the Johns" campaign. Now it's exploring educating them about the harm of the sex trade.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice told a group in Manhasset Sunday that her office is thinking of starting a program for solicitation defendants like the one offered by the Kings County district attorney's office in Brooklyn, known as "johns school."

Rice made her comments about the program at an event hosted by the Women's Group at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset. Rice was invited to discuss the county's human trafficking court, which offers prostitution defendants alternatives to the sex trade.

Rice told the group that her office is considering teaching those who patronize prostitutes about the damage it causes. A similar effort is in place at the Kings County district attorney's office, according to media reports.

"They have this whole program where they try to show them that this is not a victimless crime," Rice said.

Rice's spokesman Shams Tarek said the Nassau office hasn't committed to a program or talked to Brooklyn prosecutors about their efforts.

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"We're aware of Brooklyn having a 'johns school' and we are trying to learn about how it's executed there and how it's working out, and whether or not it might be something that would make sense in Nassau," Tarek said.

The Kings County district attorney's office wasn't available Sunday. At the church, Rice said she has always "believed that we need to look at human trafficking and the sex trade in a new way that recognizes that these two problems are very closed related."

Rice said sex trade victims are often young girls who flee abusive homes and are then exploited.

"That's the reality. It is not 'Pretty Woman,' " she said, to the film in which a rich businessman and a prostitute fall in love.

Nassau's human trafficking court handled 295 prostitution cases in its first year and referred 126 defendants to programs, according to Rice's office.

Nassau's "Flush the Johns" sting campaign resulted in the arrest of more than 100 men between April and May last year on misdemeanor charges of patronizing a prostitute in the third degree.

Rice said by failing to arrest johns, "you're letting . . . the real bad guys go, and you're ignoring the very real needs of victims."

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