Protect, Don’t Prosecute: Amnesty for Long Island Sex Workers

black and white photo of a garden with a red umbrella in the center

Many of you may have heard the the awful details of a case on Long Island in which the remains of a total of ten people who were killed while apparently doing sex work were discovered on a beach in Long Island. Four identified bodies were women, but they haven’t disclosed the sex of the remaining six bodies.

My colleague Audacia Ray has launched a campaign requesting amnesty for all prostitution related offenses. Amnesty needs to be promised for all sex workers for people to be able to come forward with information about this case.

She offers the following statement and opportunity to act:

In the week leading up to December 17, 2010 – the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers – the remains of four women who were killed while doing sex work were discovered on a beach in Long Island. Over the past two weeks, the remains of six more bodies have been found in the same area. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has requested that anyone involved in the sex industry who may have information about the disappearance of colleagues come forward and share this information with the police. But there remains a rather large barrier: prostitution is criminalized, and sex workers have no guarantee that we will be protected from prosecution if we step forward. Therefore, we are calling for amnesty for all prostitution related offenses in Suffolk County until the killer is apprehended.

If you are a sex worker or an ally of sex workers, please contact the office of the Suffolk County Police Commissioner and District Attorney and make this request. The Police Commissioner has been speaking publicly about this issue, but the DA has the ultimate authority to grant amnesty. We especially need people who live in the New York City / Long Island area, especially Suffolk county, to make calls and send emails. In your request, you can feel free to personalize with information about your experiences or feelings about these cases.

Here is a sample letter, which can be emailed to SCPDINFO@suffolkcountyny.gov and infoda@suffolkcountyny.gov:

Dear Commissioner Dormer and District Attorney Spota,

I am a sex worker / ally to sex workers who lives in Suffolk County / the greater New York City area and I am writing to express concerns my community has about the lack of protection police are offering to sex workers. During this time of extreme anxiety following the discovery of the remains of at least 10 people, it is important for you to extend goodwill to our community.

We appreciate that you have invited sex workers to come forward with information that may help in the investigation of these crimes, but we are requesting that you formally establish amnesty for prostitution related offenses until the killer has been apprehended. Declaring amnesty would go a long way in demonstrating that the police are serious about prioritizing the lives of sex workers.

Sincerely,
NAME
Organizational affiliation (if any)
Email
City/state/zip code

Sample phone script – you can call (631) 852-2677 (SCPD) and (631) 852 – 2575 (DA’s Homicide Bureau):

Hello, I am a sex worker / ally to sex workers who lives in Suffolk County / the greater New York City area. I am calling to request that DA Spota formally establish amnesty for prostitution related offenses until the serial killer is apprehended. If the police motto is to protect and serve, you must work harder to extend this to sex workers.

The precedent: In 2006, when the “Suffolk Strangler” case was developing in Ipswich, England, the police department responded positively for a demand for amnesty put forth by the English Collective of Prostitutes. While the homicide investigations were underway, British police didn’t arrest sex workers. Here is a piece about the request, and a follow up piece in which Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer is quoted saying, “The welfare of the prostitutes working in Suffolk is my priority at this time.” Let’s put pressure on the nearer Suffolk county to respond similarly.

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