Prostitution problems on Fresno's Blackstone Avenue

FRESNO, Calif.

The area near this Motel 6 on Blackstone and Griffith is a favorite hangout for prostitutes.

Teresa Excinia said, "No matter what time of day it is you see a lot of working girls walking back and forth, across the street, right here in front."

Managers here say hookers and their pimps are driving away potential motel customers.

Benito Vasquez said, "We want to be part of the community, we want people to feel safe and enjoy their visit, but it's frustrating because these people discourage that."

Tuesday they and about three dozen other business owners and managers met with Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier to try to come up with a solution.

"This is a huge problem in my district," said Olivier. "We heard from the business owners who feel they've been left behind, who feel they've been forgotten."

Olivier says the prostitution problem goes hand in hand with gang activity and violence. And experts say some of the women are actually victims of sex trafficking rings.

Ronna Bright, Central Valley Freedom Coalition explained, "So they are brought from other cities such as Oakland, Sacramento, SF, LA … and they're are here for a few weeks then moved somewhere else and new girls are brought to Fresno."

Business owners would like to see more police patrols in the area, and want the city to clean up Blackstone of littering and graffiti.

Olivier says with the budget as tight as it is at city hall, the answer will need to come from a joint effort. "This can't be done with police alone, it has to involve the faith-based group, it has to involve the county EOC, and it has to involve the business owners themselves, the motel owners."

Hotel managers say prostitution affects summer tourism profits, because visitors to Yosemite and Sequoia National Park who stay on Blackstone often complain about the problem.

The group will meet again in a month and half, meantime, Council Member Olivier says he will report Tuesday's concerns to the rest of the city council this Thursday.

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