Around the City of Richmond, amid the trash strewn throughout alleyways, behind abandoned buildings, and in the darkened corners of the area’s lesser-traveled areas are old, festering mattresses and chairs which tell the tale of a seldom-discussed issue facing the capital city — prostitution.
The dilapidated buildings lining the streets have often been a home to those who making a living doing dirty deeds on the dark side of life.
Richmond Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who represents the Southside-based Eighth District has rallied against the issue for years. As she recently viewed behind the City Motel on Jefferson Davis Highway, she witnessed evidence of the prostitution she fights against.
“See. They even drag the mattresses back here,” she said according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The motor lodge is often used as a clandestine prostitution site that Trammell claims is a “hot spot” for devious acts.
Former Richmond City police officer Rick Bishop, who is also aide to Trammell, pointed to an old lawn chair disguised by the tall weeds and unmaintained brush behind the motel.
“They do their trick, they go back to their pimps’ hotel room, get their drugs and do it all over again,” he said.
Along the city’s Southside corridor, patrolling by law enforcement officers has been lacking. The area, lined with low-rent motels, is home to the “base of operations” for Richmond’s commercial sex trade. Police are often inundated with calls complaining about the corridor’s drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes that frequent the area.
In light of this, the General Assembly has decided to step in to fix the sad situation.
A new law supported by Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, unanimously approved by the General Assembly, will now give power to the City of Richmond to require property owners to moderate what is legally called “criminal blight.” In this case, the use of property for prostitution.
The law will expand existing provisions that have addressed drug use on property in the past. Now, the city will have the option to pursue civil action against owners that could result in fines if frequent companies regarding criminal activity are not resolved within 30 days.
Senate Bill 451, introduced by Senator Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), will give local government the authority to require “abatement of criminal blight on real property.” Furthermore, it will enforce the law on property owners who have buildings which are known as commercial sex trafficking or prostitution spots. Also, “repeated acts of the malicious discharge of a firearm within a building or dwelling,” will be dealt with through the legislation.
When the legislation came before the Republican-led Senate Local Government Committee, it was unanimously approved.
The City Motel has generated the most calls to emergency responders of any property located on Jefferson Davis Highway in South Richmond. According to the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, 287 calls specific to that location have been made over the past year.
Trammell said she hopes the new legislation will force property owners to take citizen complaints more seriously. She believes that owners will at least remove the mattresses and other things integral to the livelihood of the prostitution industry out of their alleys and from behind buildings.
For her, to revive the crime-laden area of Richmond, “It’s a start, hopefully.”