Volunteer Crusading to Rid Hoosier Capital of Prostitution
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Glenda E. Chesser says she started her computerized crusade against prostitution because of her concern about living conditions, not morality.
″I’m not opposed to prostitution. I’m opposed to it on my street, in front of our houses,″ Chesser said. ″I’m opposed to the amount of traffic it brings into the neighborhood, the litter the traffic causes, the verbal harassment, the noise.″
She said she has even been propositioned while mowing her yard.
Chesser, 40, was not prepared for such problems when she and her husband, Bill, left their suburban Carmel home in 1981 to renovate an inner-city home. But she refused to let prostitution drive her from the neighborhood.
″I will not give up my house to an illegal act,″ she said in a recent interview. ″I refuse to go away and let them have it.″
That battle has turned into a county-wide program called Maximum Impact. It is based in Chesser’s personal computer, which she uses to track prostitutes through the judicial process.
Chesser pores over public records and compiles data on individual prostitutes and crime patterns. Then, armed with her statistics, she works with police and prosecutors to ensure the cases stay alive, and she attends court hearings to tell judges that ″prostitution is not a victimless crime.″
Law enforcement officials say her effort is paying off.
″We have more prostitutes in jail now than ever have been in jail in the history of Marion County,″ said deputy county prosecutor Thomas P. Dakich. ″I feel it’s safer to live in the community than it was before.″
During the 11-month period prior to the Nov. 1, 1985 start of Maximum Impact, only half of the 203 people arrested for prostitution in Marion County received jail terms or probation. The average jail term was 168 days.
During the six-month period ending May 30, 1987, 234 arrests already had been logged. Of them, 78 percent resulted in probation or jail terms averaging 206 days.
Dakich said the cost to the city has been nominal. While the city pays for the arrests and prosecutions, Chesser has volunteered her time and paid for the rest of the program.
As of the end of May, when she last updated her computer file, Chesser was following more than 700 pending prostitution and patronizing cases.
She now finds herself with less time to track prostitutes, however. Encouraged by her ability to have some impact on a civic problem, Chesser is running for a seat on the City-County Council.
Chesser’s crusade began when she started a Crimewatch group in hopes that if police received more reports about prostitution they would be more responsive. But there was little change.
″Police said, ‘It’s been there 30 years, you’ve got to live with it.’ We don’t have to live with it,″ she said.
Chesser said about 80 percent of the prostitutes she has tracked are in the business to pay for drug habits. Neighborhoods where they conduct business show greater instances of drug transactions, robberies, burglaries, fights and handgun violations, she said.
The knowledge of prostitutes that Chesser has amassed has helped police target areas for crackdowns and prosecutors recognize felony offenders who use aliases.
Now that Chesser is getting involved in politics, she is taking steps to ensure the project does not fall apart.
″I’ve come up with an Adopt-A-Hooker program,″ she said, explaining that she will assign interested parties one or two prostitutes to track and will provide them with the necessary background information.