It’s hard not to sympathize with Schenectady resident Joseph Rodriguez, whose solution to a prostitute problem at the Vale Park end of Moyston Street — erecting a stockade fence to keep the women’s bedrooms-on-wheels from parking in the vacant lot next to his house — was apparently illegal. Now that the city has forced him to remove the fence, he’s once again being woken up in the middle of the night by the sounds of the working women and their johns. This is not the way government should function.
Rodriguez says that code enforcement officers told him they’d rectify the problem by putting concrete barricades along the property, which the city took through foreclosure in late August; that would serve the same function as his fence, keeping the prostitutes from pulling into the lot, without violating the zoning ordinance pertaining to tall fences along sidewalks. Not surprisingly, the promise hasn’t been kept.
Mayor Gary McCarthy’s solution, to have police enforce the laws against prostitution, is the right one — in theory. But in practice most Schenectady residents know what happens when you report such crimes to police: not much. And if, by chance, they do respond in timely fashion on one occasion, they can’t be counted on to do it a second time. The police department’s inconsistent response is why Rodriguez put up the fence in the first place.
The city should make good on its promise to Rodriguez and erect the promised barriers. And while that will provide a practical solution to his problem, it can also be expected to create one for somebody else — wherever the prostitutes wind up. Perhaps then the mayor can persuade police to address the problem with a more sustained enforcement effort.