Proposed escort ordinance aims to fight prostitution

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Eau Claire city council will take up a proposed ordinance next week regarding the licensing of escort services.

While the measure is aimed at the licensing of escorts, its real goal is to crack down on illegal prostitution.

Assistant city attorney Douglas Hoffer is looking to crack down on prostitution in Eau Claire and he hopes the proposed ordinance accomplishes that.

"I think that we know, though, that a lot of individuals who advertise as escorts are actually using the escort as a cover to engage in prostitution," Hoffer said to WEAU 13 News on Friday.

Under this policy, escorts would be required to be licensed and follow within strict guidelines - differentiating their actions from illegal prostitution. Violations under the ordinance would result in a fine for up to 5-thousand dollars.

"This ordinance is not designed to increase the number of escorts,” Hoffer said. “Most communities that have escort license ordinances receive little to no applications for these licenses."

Combating prostitution has become trickier in recent years, in part to advances in social media.

"Most prostitutes advertise online, using online platforms - such as or Craigslist and advertise as escorts,” Hoffer said. “In order to further investigate the conduct, police have to do more intensive investigations, more explicit acts, more explicit language."

Hoffer says many communities have similar ordinances on the books on their books regarding escort services. But there is one factor that makes the proposed ordinance which the Eau Claire city council will start taking up next week a little different than the rest.

The Eau Claire version of the ordinance would punish the unlicensed escort, as well as the customers who purchase their services.

"It isn't just focused on supply, but also demand - and not just focused entirely on the prostitutes, but also the individuals who engage the services of prostitutes," Hoffer said.

Jodi Emerson with the advocacy group Fierce Freedom told WEAU 13 News on Friday legislations like the one the city council will hear fights prostitution the wrong way.

"I think it makes people feel like they're fighting it, but I think we've got tools to fight behind from a different perspective,” she said. “I think punishing a victim is not the way that we want to – as a community – do this.

"Human trafficking and prostitution is a terrible thing that is going in in our community and I understand that the police want to fight this. But, there are other ways that they can fight this, using the demand side."

The proposed ordinance will have a first reading at this coming Tuesday's city council meeting.

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