Buy sex from a hooker in Oakland, and you may lose your car and see your picture plastered on a billboard
or bus shelter.
That's the warning city and police officials sounded Thursday as they initiated a new "shaming campaign" to crack down on prostitution in the city's Fruitvale district.
The program will include surveillance cameras erected by merchants along busy International Boulevard, where residents say the blatant prostitution trade has hurt business. Videotapes of those soliciting prostitutes will be handed over to Oakland police and Alameda County prosecutors.
Customers -- known as johns -- convicted of soliciting prostitution could see their visages featured prominently on billboards and at bus stops, officials said at a news conference at a park at 35th Avenue and International Boulevard.
"You will be shamed," said Mario Juarez, 27, who owns Fireside Realty and Mortgage on International Boulevard where a camera will be installed. "We are open for business, and we are closed to criminals."
Asked if he felt nervous about retribution from johns, prostitutes or pimps, Juarez said, "I'm not. What we're doing is the right thing."
The program will supplement sting operations known as Beat Feet that allow Oakland police to seize cars from johns.
"You come to Oakland in a Porsche, you go back on AC Transit," quipped Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.
Oakland police will be joined in the effort by Alameda County sheriff's deputies as well as various county and federal agencies.
"This is a crime that is inherently tied to child exploitation," said Wayne Tucker, who was named interim Oakland police chief this month. "It's a crime that leaves many families broken and sick."
City Administrator Deborah Edgerly said, "The problem of prostitution is definitely impacting the quality of life in this neighborhood. The merchants and the residents have a right to a safe community."
Previous prostitution stings in Alameda County have netted many residents from outside the county as well as a respected Superior Court judge, city employees and, ironically, two Oakland vice officers. Under the new plan, only those convicted of solicitation could have their faces shown in public, officials said. A Chronicle study in 2001 found that although the city is making hundreds of thousands of dollars on seized vehicles, charges against the suspects typically are knocked down to misdemeanors.
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer