County officials file civil suit to ban 80 pimps, prostitutes and johns from sex trade at Bissonnet hot spot
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by Houston officials, filed a civil suit Wednesday to prohibit more than 80 pimps, prostitutes and their known customers from doing business on the infamous “Bissonnet Track,” known as Houston’s unofficial red light district.
The lawsuit asks a judge to establish a “Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone,” and order that any of 86 known pimps, prostitutes and johns found in the area and engaging in sex trafficking be subject to arrest and fine for contempt of court, Ryan said. Each of the individuals listed in the lawsuit have previously been arrested for prostitution-related crime in the area, the county attorney said.
“Today’s lawsuit is seeking a new tool in this long battle,” Ryan said.
The initiative, which Ryan said was the first such anti-prostitution injunction filed in Texas, is not the first time county officials have used civil nuisance laws to fight crime. Earlier this year Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg filed a lawsuit against a local bar, alleging that chronic over-serving of patrons that she alleged led to traffic accidents and assaults in and outside the drinking establishment.
And in late 2010, former District Attorney Pat Lykos filed an anti-gang civil injunction in a lawsuit that targeted dozens of documented gang members suspected of selling drugs in the 700-unit Haverstock Hills complex and the surrounding community in the northwest corner of Aldine Bender and the Eastex Freeway.
Houston police and Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo joined Ryan in unveiling the joint effort to curtail human trafficking and prostitution along the much-plagued strip on the western edge of Houston.
Houston has long been a hub for human trafficking, as a major metropolitan area with seaport and major highway corridors allowing access to cheap labor from the Mexican border area.
The new project takes aim at prostitution purveyors along Bissonnet near the Beltway, including civil action against people who promote, solicit or aid in sex-trafficking operations.
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Since taking command of the Houston Police Department, Acevedo has aided in several such efforts, including a sting last fall that netted charges against nearly 140 men, including a Houston police officer, at phony massage parlor.
The county attorney’s office has worked jointly with law enforcement to file civil suits under nuisance-abatement law to stop proseitution at these establishments, including two court cases brought in January. These actions have resulted in dozens of injunctions or settlements that shut down such establishments.