In the list of problems besieging Nassau County that District Attorney Kathleen Rice has the ability and resources to focus on, where does prostitution fall? That's the real question surrounding her office's highly publicized bust of 104 "johns" in a sting operation, and the subsequent release of their names and photos.
The problems prostitution brings are significant and often tragic: abuse of women and children by pimps and customers, drug addiction, trafficking in humans who are treated as slaves, crime and disruption in the places where the renting of humans runs rampant.
But this is Long Island, where the culture of political cronyism, if not corruption, is deeply rooted, where investigations into possible misuse of federal aid in the wake of superstorm Sandy make headlines weekly, and where overdoses of opiates are spiking. These problems are widespread, some even overwhelming in their reach.
Is prostitution in Nassau so overwhelming it requires this level of focus? And if prostitution and the abuses that accompany it are such a significant problem, why have they been all but ignored until now?
In July, Rice will assume the presidency of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. She says fighting sex trafficking and the sex trade will be at the heart of her agenda. Those are ills worth fighting, and making the cases that target the traders and pimps takes a long time and involves enormous cooperation with the social service agencies that tend to first spot victims. So the questions arise: Does the tactic of arresting and publicly embarrassing those who solicit prostitutes dampen the trade? Experts say there's no evidence that it does. And is prostitution really where the county's cops and prosecutors need to concentrate their efforts and resources?
Common sense suggests the answer is probably not.