Suing pimps, prostitutes, johns to clean up Bissonnet

- An unusual tactic is being used to stop the prostitution and crime on Bissonnet Street in southwest Houston. The problem is so bad on Bissonnet when most people talk about "the track" all across the country, they are referring to a strip in southwest Houston between the Beltway and Highway 59 where sex is for sale non-stop.

“We're closing this operation down,” declares Houston City Councilman Mike Laster. 

Prostitution has been a problem for years on Bissonnet. So much so, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says even when he and other officers went there to address the problem, the criminals weren’t afraid and didn’t even attempt to hide. But some residents say they do feel the need to keep their identity concealed.

“You're saying it's so bad that it's frightening? You’ll talk with me but you don't want your face shown talking about the prostitution problem?” reporter Damali Keith asked one woman. “Right. I don't want my face shown. I live here. I live a block away,” the woman explains. 

”We've got kids and families here. It's ridiculous,” adds resident Damien Love.

”Prostitution and other sex-related crimes run rampant in the area known as The Track or the Bissonett Track,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“It happens from early in the morning, to midday, to late at night but it must stop,” says head Pastor of Higher Dimension Church Terrance Johnson, whose place of worship sits right in the middle of it. He says he’s thankful Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a lawsuit against 86 pimps, prostitutes and johns asking the court for injunctions to keep these repeat offenders from holding this neighborhood hostage any longer.

“It's about creating an environment where it makes it harder for pimps to victimize these young women who have been taken from their families,” explains Chief Acevedo, who says this area of Bissonnet is listed on international websites advertised as “Houston’s red light district”, attracting crime and violence like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, HPD says there have been 4,000 crimes committed in the area since 2016. “Trafficking, aggravated assault, prostitution, weapons offenses, narcotics, criminal trespass,” says the chief.

Celena Vinson with the Harris County Attorney’s Office took a picture of what she says is a prostitute soliciting right outside an elementary school where the principal is fed up. “She (the principal) says her kids are dropped off at school and have seen women thrown out of cars." 

“We're getting ready to create a place where people can walk down the street without fear. A place where children can get a quality education. A place where children can play without witnessing prostitution,” says Pastor Johnson. 

The mayor says children are also often victims of the crimes committed here, being sexually assaulted, trafficked and forced to walk Bissonnet as a prostitute.

If any of the 86 accused criminals named in the lawsuit violate the injunction, they will be charged with contempt and thrown in jail. However, victims or anyone wanting to get out of trafficking or prostitution can actually choose what’s called an 'opt out’ option, and resources will be made available to them to help them do so.

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