Neighbors upset over prostitution in University Heights

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Tuesday was National Night Out and University Heights was using it to highlight their problem. Neighborhoods all over the Tri-State got together to meet and greet during the National Night Out.

"When you're endangering our neighborhood by having that kind of criminal activity, it's just gotta stop," said Beth McCarty referring to a spike in prostitution in her neighborhood, University Heights.

Neighbors in University Heights held a massive protest against what they call a growing prostitution problem.

Protestors said prostitutes, who have been pushed out of downtown, are finding plenty of new business along McMicken Avenue, between Ravine and Straight streets.

And it's not happening just at night. It's happening plenty during the day as well. Tuesday night, neighbors made it clear they don't want any part of it.

They marched across McMicken calling for an end to prostitution on their block.

"They should be vigilant about calling the police and taking license plates," McCarty said.

And people are taking action, with signs like "John camera in use" at the police substation.

"The flood gates opening," McCarty said, describing the influx of prostitutes this past year.

"We can't pass it off to Camp Washington, pass it off to Clifton, Over-The-Rhine can't pass it off to us," she said.

Little more than a year ago, FOX19 showed you sex workers walking the streets downtown.

The police task force, called Vortex, was assigned to make them go away.

"We kinda target prostitution," said Lieutenant Paul Neudigate with the Cincinnati Police Department. "When we do our prostitution stings because there are violent criminals that utilize the service of prostitutes."

The sex workers moved on to University Heights. The tipping point for neighbors there came a couple of weeks ago.

"Where an individual was in a car with a prostitute," McCarty said, "slammed into a neighbor's brand new car on the street, sent it spinning totaling the car. Both got out of the car and ran down the street, so our neighborhood said, 'that's it.'"

And talk about brazen. Neighbors said prostitutes have been known to stop by a house on West McMicken and use a faucet out-front, to refill their water bottles and then hose down before moving-on to their next client.

"They are so bold," McCarty said. "They don't care, they don't have any respect for our neighborhood and they almost laugh because they get picked up by the police and they're back on the street in a couple of hours."

Tony Walsh has lived on the block 23 years.

"We had it (prostitution) occasionally," Walsh said. "Where they would be forced out of Over-The-Rhine, we'd have them for awhile, the police would push back and they'd be gone, but now, they're entrenched."

"Street cars not street walkers," said Maureen France, holding a huge sign with that very slogan blazing across it.

The street cars used to run right down their street.

"I think the problem are their customers," France said. "Which are, come here on a regular basis in fancy cars, some from Ohio, many from Kentucky and if they weren't doing business, the girls wouldn't be here."

The group in University Heights is fairly well organized. They are taking names, license plates and are working very well with the police.

They hope other communities in the area will take note as well, because if it can happen there, it could happen in your neighborhood too.

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