Kent woman happy that Legislature passed anti-prostitution bill

Pat Colgan

Pat Colgan

Drivers arrested for patronizing prostitutes along Pacific Highway South soon could have their vehicles impounded by the Kent Police under a bill passed last month by the state Legislature.

West Hill residents have complained for years to the Kent Police about prostitutes working near their neighborhoods. Residents hope the new approach works.

“That’s great news, I’m very happy,” said Pat Colgan, who often finds condoms scattered around her Salt Air Hills neighborhood. “I hope it’ll be safer for everybody.”

Colgan lives only a block off of Pacific Highway in the Salt Air Hills neighborhood between South 248th and South 252nd Streets.

“This has been going on for years and years,” said Colgan, who has lived on the West Hill since 1967. “We hope it moves somewhere else. It would be nice someday if it doesn’t affect any neighborhood. It looks like there will be a change.”

Kent Police Chief Steve Strachan testified in Olympia the past two years in an effort to pass a new law to combat prostitution along a 2-mile stretch of Pacific Highway South in the city between South 272nd Street and Kent-Des Moines Road.

The bill requires arrested clients of prostitutes to pay a $500 fine to recover their vehicles. They also would have to pay towing costs of $100 to $150. Those later acquitted of charges would get all of the fines and fees refunded.

“We don’t pretend that this will solve the problem overnight,” Strachan said in a phone interview April 27. “But it’s a big step forward.”

The Senate passed House Bill 1362 with a 47-0 vote on April 8. The House passed the bill 97-0 on April 18. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill Thursday.

The bill becomes law 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, so Kent Police plan to start impounding vehicles in late July or early August.

“It’s a pretty aggressive and comprehensive approach,” Strachan said. “And it’s not just punishing the violator. It provides treatment for the women involved in prostitution.”

The $500 fine goes into a state treasury account to be used for funding a grant program to enhance prostitution prevention and intervention services. Social service agencies will be able to request money from the state to help fund programs to get women out of prostitution.

Kent Police arrested 70 prostitutes and 19 customers of prostitutes in 2008, said Kevin Axelson, police crime analyst.

Strachan said the police will operate undercover stings this summer to arrest more customers of prostitutes and to impound their vehicles.

The bill only allows vehicle impoundments in areas that jurisdictions can prove through arrest reports that prostitution is a regular activity. Kent already has established a Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution zone on Pacific Highway in an effort to arrest prostitutes for prostitution loitering.

The bill requires governing bodies to post signs at the boundaries of the prostitution zone areas to indicate that the area has been designated as a zone where drivers arrested for prostitution-related charges will have their vehicles impounded.

City officials plan to post signs along Pacific Highway at South 272nd Street and Kent-Des Moines Road.

“We want them to drive down the road and think that this is not a place to come to,” Strachan said of potential customers of prostitutes.

To read House Bill 1362, go to and click on bill search.

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