Stripper Bill III

5/2/11
USA

The debate over restrictions on strip bars and other adult-oriented establishments has taken a serious turn into human trafficking.

Interesting.

Through last year and much of this session, what Kansans heard loudest from the anti-nudity crowd was that strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments were bad for property values, generated crime and were difficult for small communities to keep from spreading into their midst.

But none of those arguments produced enough traction for the proposed restrictions to make it through the Legislature. The push stalled twice in the Senate, quite possibly because proponents offered more blustery rhetoric than actual evidence to back up their claims.

Then, however, came a compelling story in The Wichita Eagle during mid-March about human trafficking, and now what we’re hearing is the crackdown is needed to battle that problem.

Trafficking is an issue that can’t be minimized — not when The Eagle reported children as young as 11 are being sold for sex and offenders are being prosecuted in Kansas — but tackling it by targeting an entire industry raises some questions of its own. Here are a few of them:

Would it be better to address the problem through stronger enforcement of current laws versus government intervention into what’s currently legal activity? After all, the type of behavior described by The Eagle is covered by Kansas statutes.

Is it fair to condemn all operators of adult businesses because some of them are involved in illegal behavior? When Capital-Journal investigative reporter Tim Carpenter looked into Club Orleans recently, he found the owner had set up significant security measures at the establishment. Those included clearing the parking lot before allowing dancers to leave, bringing police dogs onto the premises to make sure it was clean of narcotics and running video surveillance inside the business and out. There hasn’t been a liquor license violation at the establishment in a decade, which suggests the staff is conscientious about checking IDs — especially given the club’s location in the backyard of state regulators and law enforcement officials would seem to make it a ripe target.

Would cracking down on exotic dance clubs be an effective solution for the trafficking problem?

Reportedly, strippers who were put out of work when Missouri passed severe restrictions on adult-oriented business last year are now working in party buses and making house calls. In other words, they’ve gone underground, where you’d think it would be more difficult for authorities to monitor their activities than in public businesses.

How much of a connection is there between trafficking and strip clubs in Kansas? The Eagle story quoted police and others as saying it’s not unusual for underage girls to be allowed to dance in the establishments, especially on amateur nights, and then be further exploited after-hours by being coerced into sex acts. But if authorities know the problem is happening and also know where it’s taking place, why haven’t they been able to stop it?

No doubt, the trafficking issue will dial up the pressure on the Senate to approve the restrictions. But are they truly the answer?

Ric Anderson, whose only visits to exotic dance clubs for the past 10-plus years were for work assignments, can be reached at (785) 295-1282 or ric.anderson@cjonline.com

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