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Prostitution in plain sight prompts Oakland community condemnation

Open prostitution in Oakland neighborhood brings community condemnation
Open prostitution in Oakland neighborhood brings community condemnation 02:52

OAKLAND -- Residents of Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood are demanding the city do something about rampant prostitution and sex trafficking.

They held a community meeting Saturday on 13th Avenue and International Boulevard where a lot of the activities continue to take place.

As elected leaders talked about plans and solutions, across the street from the stage two sex workers were waiting for customers on the busy boulevard.

"We see this every day. It doesn't cross our mind like 'Oh, this should not be happening here. Oh, this is Oakland, it's regular,'" said high school senior Trang Nguyen.

Many in attendance said the sight of sex workers walking in thongs and see-through tops has become normal.

"Me and my friends joke about it, that's how normal it is," Nguyen said.

Community groups invited elected leaders to the town hall. They want authorities to go after the pimps and johns.

"A member of the board of supervisors, an assembly member and district attorney all saying we're going to partner and work with the community because we know it's going to take all of us. That hasn't happened before," said Oakland council president Nikki Fortunato Bas.

She thinks new partnerships can improve street conditions.

"We are committed to solutions. I personally have been committed in terms of the environmental changes," Fortunato Bas said.

Last year, the city added barricades on a portion of East 15th Street to stop illegal prostitution and neighbors said they worked but it only pushed the sex workers back to International Boulevard.

Many families that live on the street said they feel like prisoners in their own homes. Children walk pass sex workers to get in and out of the neighborhood.

"The city allows it to happen and so the city and the county and everybody that's involved that has power to do something about this, by not doing it, it is allowing the business to flourish," said David Kakishiba, executive director of East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC).

Nguyen shared on stage that, last year, someone in a large van followed her and tried to kidnap her while she was walking to a store one afternoon. A good samaritan helped her and they called the police. She believs the crime was related to sex trafficking.

"I can't walk around my neighborhood freely, I'm always looking behind me. I always have to bring a pepper spray. I had to buy a taser," Nguyen said.

Elected leaders made promises at the event but Nguyen said talk is cheap. She believes in results.

"I'm not optimistic that this issue will get solved. I'm just hoping it'll get better," Nguyen said.

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