Nonprofit briefs Wilsonville City Council on anti-prostitution efforts in the city

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: LESLILE PUGMIRE HOLE - Boones Ferry Park is the location of the old Boones Ferry, which crossed the river at the end of Boones Ferry Road. There wasn't much business for Wilsonville City Council to attend to during its meeting Thursday, Aug. 24, but the group did take care of some housekeeping items.

Council unanimously approved a consent agenda, which included an amendment to the City's Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The amendment approved an additional $44,000 contract for the master planning of Boones Ferry Park, which was awarded to GreenPlay LLC, the same consulting firm handling the city's overall Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

"It's advantageous if GreenPlay could go ahead and do the Boones Ferry Master Plan as well because they've already done surveying and know our community," said Parks and Recreation Director Mike McCarty during the preceding work session. "It saves a year's time in getting the master plan done and saves money. ... They would start on Sept. 5 as a kickoff date for this and be done by the calendar's year end."

Council wrapped up its city business with the approval of a second reading for a land annexation ordinance. The ordinance was for a 2,206-square-foot piece of property on the south side of Southwest Advance Road that is west of the future Southwest 63rd Avenue. Owned by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, the property allowed for further street work — the addition of a left-hand turn lane — that is necessary to open the new Meridian Creek Middle School.

While the council didn't tackle any further business Aug. 24, they did listen to a presentation from Safety Compass, a nonprofit that offers support for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Safety Compass Executive Director Esther Nelson told council that she had been working with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office for the past year, identifying victims in Wilsonville and surrounding cities, and wanted to share that work with council.

Working with Clackamas County to identify prostitution and human trafficking, Nelson said Safety Compass has identified more than 60 sex trafficking victims in Clackamas County alone this past year, with roughly one-fifth of those victims being minors. Safety Compass works with those victims to make sure they're tried in community court, allowing them to avoid jail and instead get support through diversion programs.

Nelson told council that given Wilsonville's proximity to Interstate 5, the city was a natural stopping point for traffickers who work all along the West Coast.

"Trafficking happens in every city in the country. It's not specific to just highly-urbanized areas," Nelson said. "I think some communities feel that there's a specific issue with their community, and that's not true. Talking to survivors, they're sent all over. But when you find a committed law agency to identify and get them services, that's when you see statistics of human trafficking increase, simply because you're making a point to look for it."

She added that police are already seeing a decline in prostitution activity in Wilsonville and that those numbers will continue to decrease as word circulates throughout the trafficking "community."

"Watching this crime, it's mostly internet-based and communication between traffickers is constant. There are subcultures within the industry online, and they respond to changes quickly," Nelson said. "There will always be somebody willing to come, but as they introduce more people into the gang, the majority will not come here, which is exactly what we want."

She added that education of the community is key, and that focusing on "customers" will also be a focus in the future. Safety Compass' goals are to help victims but also identify and incarcerate traffickers. Nelson said that while the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office has already seen a noticeable decline in prostitution, it's an area that would continue to be a priority.

"We appreciate it and we won't put our heads in the sand," said Mayor Tim Knapp. "We hope that the numbers continue to go down so it becomes known that this is a place (traffickers) don't want to be."

Council's next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 7, at City Hall.

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