Police carry out prostitution crackdown

Viennese police arrested five people in the first night of a new law regulating prostitution.

A spokesman for police forces in the city said today (Weds) that five people were put in custody last night. He added that 40 men and women could face charges for breaching various regulations of the legal initiative which was established by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Green Party in an attempt to relocate sex for sale from densely populated areas. The police official explained that officers focused on streets in Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus in their checks on whether pimps and prostitutes stuck to the bylaw.

The new prostitution law makes offering sex for cash a criminal offence everywhere in the city expect five areas situated in the districts of Leopoldstadt, Neubau, Alsergrund, Penzing and Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus. Green Party member Birgit Hebein – who represented her faction in the intergovernmental committee for a reform of the city’s prostitution law – admitted when speaking to the Kurier today that the new regulation needed to be adapted and improved in the coming weeks.

Viennese police officials emphasised they would focus on informing prostitutes about the new rules as especially foreigners may be unaware of the reform under which police officers are allowed to fine pimps 500 Euros for getting prostitutes in touch with customers in areas marked as no-go zones by the SPÖ-Greens administration. The previous law on the issue banned sex for sale from the vicinity of kindergartens, schools, churches and cemeteries. It was reformed as several initiatives formed by residents refused to ease their pressure on city hall decision-makers – despite figures showing that crime rates were generally lower in streets where prostitutes looked for customers than elsewhere in the same districts.

The opposition launched intense attacks on the Social Democrats of Mayor Michael Häupl and their coalition partner in the past months as the left-wing factions debated a reform of prostitution regulations. The conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) claimed the creation of five areas where prostitution was legal meant that nothing would change for residents. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) – the only party with gains in last year’s city election – criticised the Viennese government for failing to stick to its initial target of strictly keeping the street sex industry from roads where many people lived.

Around 2,200 women are registered as prostitutes in Vienna. The overall number of women offering sex for money is expected to be twice as high as many do not attend obligatory weekly medical checkups. Some prostitutes are around 70 years old but most of them are aged between 20 and 35, according to non-government organisations (NGOs) providing legal advice to women in this business.