10/11/07 -- OKC, OK - As reported by local news, last weekend marked JohnTV.com's first of several planned 'Mug Shot Movie Nights' on South Robinson Ave. in South OKC.
The act of publicly shaming those accused and/or convicted of soliciting prostitution is nothing new. Many municipalities display mug shots of 'Johns' on city websites and/or public access television stations. Brian Bates, aka the Video Vigilante and founder of JohnTV.com, says he is taking the idea a unique step forward.
"The inherit problem with traditional John TV is that the public has to come to you to be exposed to the message," said Bates. "My idea is simple, I'm bringing the message to the Johns."
Last weekend, Bates and a handful of South Robinson business and property owners, gathered at the corner of SW 36th street for a premiere of sorts.
In a vacant commercial lot, Bates and other volunteers setup a 12' inflatable movie screen and video projector. As the sun sat and the street prostitutes began to gather, the images and names of convicted 'Johns' were displayed for all to see. So big were the images in fact, that they could easily been seen over three blocks away.
Bates says the idea is to remind the 'Johns' cruising the area that their actions do not go unnoticed. "Street prostitution is not victimless," said Bates. "The families and businesses in this community are victims, the children exposed to the hookers, drugs and used condoms are victims, and the women forced to sell themselves are victims too."
Bates' acknowledgement that the prostitutes are often victims of abuse and addiction is why he is refusing to display the mug shots of arrested prostitutes.
"These women degrade themselves every time they step into a car, the last thing I want to do is degrade them further," said Bates.
Bates is no stranger to confronting street prostitution head on.
Bates' anti-street prostitution video activism began in 1996 and often puts him face-to-face with pimps, prostitutes and their Johns.
Bates says this latest effort is as risky as it gets. He also said that an Oklahoma City Police representative told him OCPD has no interest in insuring his or other volunteers safety.
Bates said that after last weekend, he realized that there was a potential for a violent confrontation with either a pimp, prostitute, John or other criminals in the area.
"Police, on patrol, were very friendly and stopped by and checked on things from time-to-time," said Bates. However, Bates said he was reminded that police resources are stretched very thin in that area and that police could not guarantee Bates' or the other supporters safety, or how quickly police could respond if there was trouble.
Bates said he was urged to and did contact Oklahoma City police to inquire into hiring an off-duty officer to provide security for the next event.
Bates says that police acknowledged that uniformed officers often work off-duty hours providing security for businesses and events for about $25 an hour.
However, Bates said an officer with the Operations Division told him, in a recorded phone call, "I doubt any Oklahoma City police officer would be interested in providing you with security."
The officer went on to tell Bates that "no Oklahoma City police officer is going to work with you for less than say $100 and hour."
Bates says he's not surprised with the reaction from police, but that his request was out of a safety concern for community members who were present last weekend.
"We had a former city councilwoman that is elderly, a pastor in the neighborhood and several parents with their children," said Bates.
"I would hate for anything to happen to any individual who is simply trying to improve their community, especially after we made our concerns known to police," said Bates.
Bates says he has had requests from property owners in other parts of the city plagued with street prostitution.
Bates hopes to continue his "Mug Shot Movie Nights" monthly throughout the city.