Daily Brew

Winnipeg man launches ‘name and shame’ campaign against local johns

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A screengrap via YouTube of a sign in north-end Winnipeg.

If you knew prostitutes were walking the streets outside your home, pulling johns to a residential neighbourhood where children and families live, what would you do?

One Winnipeg man has decided to answer that question with an old fashioned "name and shame" campaign, vowing to publish the licence plate numbers of johns travelling through his north-end neighbourhood.

Russell Jackson has posted signs around his community warning johns that their licence plate numbers will be posted on Facebook. A page entitled "Stop 4 a Date Facebook the Plate," was launched late last month, prompting much debate over the practice of identifying supposed johns.

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"It is degrading, disgusting and disrespectful to our community," Jackson told CTV News, about the prevalence of johns in his community.

"If I catch you talking to one of the sex workers in my area, I'm going to report your plate. If you are trolling in the neighbourhood, you could be the plate of the week."

Jackson and others members of the Facebook group say the neighbourhood is overrun by such activity, adding drivers will even cruise through the neighbourhood eying young girls who are not working as prostitutes.

But while Jackson's campaign is receiving a lot of attention, with articles appearing in local newspapers, blogs and elsewhere, it has only actually identified a handful of licence plate numbers online.

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The group's Facebook page currently features only three numbers — one belonging to a car Jackson says trolled the area eight times, one belonging to a driver he caught speaking to a woman who frequents the area and third he says ran through a stop sign.

The campaign may be more bluster than substance at this point, but the strategy itself isn't new.

Residents of Nanaimo, B.C. ran a now-defunct website where they posted licence plate numbers and other details of suspected johns.

A local newspaper reported the website stopped being updated in 2009 because residents saw a marked decrease in activity, and also because of the legal concerns around misidentifying someone as a john.

In other places, authorities have embraced the “name and shame” approach to solicitation. Chicago police post the identities and photos of anyone arrested for soliciting prostitution online for 30 days.

Not surprisingly, Winnipeg police have said they would prefer the matter be left to professionals. They have a process for reporting prostitution complaints, and have said they fear for Jackson's safety.

We all must be concerned about what happens should Jackson’s one-man campaign against the sex trade be escalated. He has already received notes from apparent sex trade workers upset at his attention.

The war may be best waged by professionals, but Jackson should be commended for the well-intentioned love he has shown his community.

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