Aurora Avenue debate: Should Seattle reinstate its prostitution loitering law?

A renewed push for action on Seattle's notorious Aurora Avenue has emerged. 

Reports show that City Councilmember Cathy Moore suggested the reinstatement of an old loitering law to address escalating concerns over crime in the corridor. The proposal comes amidst mounting worries about exploitation and trafficking, issues that Mayor Bruce Harrell's office has also vowed to tackle.

Harrell's office announced Tuesday that May 7th will be designated as Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Day. The proclamation was made during an annual luncheon hosted by the non-profit organization StolenYouth, which identifies Aurora as the epicenter of sex trafficking in Washington State.

Renee Wallace, representing StolenYouth, highlighted the severity of the problem, noting that trafficking extends along the 99 corridor from Pacific Highway in the south to Aurora in the north. She emphasized that many children engaged in the sex trade are doing so out of necessity and may not fully comprehend the exploitation they endure. 

StolenYouth estimates an estimated 500 children and youth (under the age of 24) are trafficked each year in Seattle alone. 

"It’s a huge issue, especially since the pandemic, it has increased," noted Wallace. "It’s not only on Aurora Avenue but it's online as well."

Wallace's concerns are echoed by recent events, including a disturbing case earlier this year where Bellevue Police arrested a man who used Snapchat to lure underage girls from Oregon to his Federal Way home. Subsequently, the girls were forced into sex work on Aurora.


Man arrested, accused of forcing 11 and 15-year-old into sex work on Aurora Ave.

Police believe 25-year-old Ezra Wimana transported an 11-year-old and 15-year-old girl over 300 miles from Oregon to Bellevue and allegedly forced them to attempt to engage in sex work on Aurora Avenue in Seattle.

The issues on Aurora extend beyond exploitation, as evidenced by a recent incident captured on camera in March, depicting gunfire exchanged during a turf war between pimps near Northgate. Residents in the area have expressed growing fear for their safety amidst the escalating violence.

Aurora Avenue falls within District 5, represented by newly elected City Councilmember Cathy Moore, who has been inundated with complaints from constituents. In response, Moore has floated the idea of reviving an old city ordinance related to prostitution loitering, which was repealed unanimously in 2020 due to concerns over the potential discriminatory impact and arbitrary enforcement of such laws.

While some advocate for a crackdown, others, like Renee Wallace, emphasize the importance of prevention and addressing the root causes of exploitation. Wallace believes that understanding and addressing the underlying vulnerabilities is crucial in combating sex trafficking.

"We tend to put a lot of Band-Aids on things and the city is hemorrhaging," Wallace pointed out. "There is the misconception that it’s only happening out on the streets. Kids are more susceptible to getting exploited by playing online video games." 

As discussions continue, attention turns to whether Mayor Harrell will support Moore's proposal. Her office reports she has been discussing solutions with his office in addition to former sex workers, the city attorney and Seattle Police. 


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