Members of the Wausau City Council are responding to the first citations under the escort licensing ordinance where police cited one prostitute and seven men, including a local teacher, for soliciting a prostitute.
The ordinance was put in place in May. The Public Heath and Safety Committee decided this ordinance is necessary to address the prostitution problem in the area, but with no one charged, are members still confident in their decision to pass it?
"I'm surprised that these stings are still necessary," said Committee Vice Chair and City Council President Romey Wagner, "that the police can say they put these up on these backpages and within minutes, local people start hitting on it."
He said before the ordinance, the way the city was addressing the problem of prostitution did not seem to be as effective as it could be.
"They were charging them with criminal, but almost all if not all of those criminal charges were deferred down to other charges where people were only getting $200 fines and if they stayed 'crime free' for a couple of years, it wouldn't even go on their record," he said.
Now, police can give a citation with a minimum fine of $2,000.
"It allows the city to recoup through fines and forfeitures, at least some of the money that's expended in conducting these investigations. They're not cheap investigations for us to do," Wausau Police Lieutenant Matt Barnes said.
Wagner said a hefty fine is a good deterrent. With one of the eight cited being a teacher, he said maybe now public and private organizations need to revisit the language in hiring contracts.
"Maybe they need to put some standards for behavior into the contracts they hire. We, at city hall, the county, the different organizations that are public and private, we need to take the responsibility that we're holding our people accountable for," Wagner said.
He said, as a council member, they put the ordinance in place as a deterrent and it is the district's responsibility to handle this situation from there. As a private citizen, however, he hopes the district handles the case with extreme severity.
The Wausau School District Superintendent said that teacher cited turned in his resignation on Tuesday. It will be reviewed at Monday's school board meeting.
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