For residents of the Logan Circle neighborhood, warmer weather means cherry blossoms, tulips and prostitutes performing their services outdoors.
Some of my neighbors complain that they have watched hookers and their customers engage in sex from their kitchen and bedroom windows. One neighbor, a student at Howard University, said this was a diversion from his studies until he stepped from his apartment and found his yard strewn with disease-control paraphernalia.
Another neighbor who lives on Logan Circle said a prostitute had given her adolescent son money "just because he seemed like a nice kid." But it was the hooker who told her about the financial exchanges, not her son, and this had angered and disappointed her.
Sex on the streets traditionally proliferates in spring. This year, with more prostitutes working throughout the neighborhood, they have become a glaring contrast to the cherry blossoms beneath which they stroll.
Earlier this year, police had to barricade 13th Street NW near Logan Circle while a police helicopter focused a beam of light on an abandoned house where prostitutes are known to take their customers. A teen-age boy was holed up inside with a gun. The youth later surrendered and was charged with raping a woman and robbing a man inside the house -- a typical occurrence with sex in the streets.
In Atlanta recently, a commission set up by Mayor Andrew Young to study prostitution made recommendations that would take the business off the streets and put it inside hotels as escort services. It is ironic that as soon as Washington businessmen were successful in closing the modeling studios along the 14th Street red light district, sending more hookers into the streets, a suggestion would be made that the best place for prostitution is, after all, indoors.
A D.C. group called Citizens Against Prostitution and Solicitation (CAPS) has been considering a similar idea for months, but has yet to act. "The thrust of this group is to remove prostitution from the streets, not just from our neighborhood, but from the city," said Bob Maffin, president of the Logan Circle Community Association and a backer of CAPS.
"We're under no illusion that you can eliminate prostitution in one form or another," he said. "But we do feel it is not necessary to do it on the streets." Neither do many of the area's residents, who say prostitution brings a variety of other activities -- including drugs and violence.
The bodies of the hookers tell their story with gashes, cuts, bruises and needle marks. Johns get robbed, pimps get cut, and hookers are badly beaten.
When sex is for sale under a bedroom window, as one of my neighbors observed, drastic steps must be taken. One night he decided to team up with his roommate and hold a garage spotlight on the couple, hoping to disrupt them and discourage a return visit.
Coincidentally, two neighbors from the other side of the alley had another idea and were headed for the couple with clubs and sticks as the spotlight lit up. The couple fled.
It was a triumphant moment. The plan had worked in this particular case, but was by no means a permanent solution: The mother on Logan Circle still had a problem about prostitutes giving money to her son.
She wanted the hookers off the street immediately, for now and forever. First, she said, she had to have a talk with her son.
The neighbors' complaints focus not so much on prostitution itself but more about where the business is being transacted, which is in their back yards.
Most of them were enthusiastic about the proposal that came out of Atlanta because at least it would take prostitution off the streets and help keep them from becoming victims of this "victimless" crime.