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Advocates Call For Ban On Use Of Condoms As Evidence In Prostitution Cases

(credit: William B. Plowman/Getty Images)

(credit: William B. Plowman/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Advocates for sex workers, runaway teens and transgender persons have urged New York City officials to ban the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution-related crimes.

A New York City Council committee held a hearing Monday on a proposed resolution encouraging the state Legislature to prohibit police from confiscating condoms from suspected sex workers for potential use in prosecutions.

Civil rights groups have long opposed the practice, saying it amounts to harassment and undermines efforts to combat the spread of disease.

Last month, the NYPD announced that it will no longer confiscate unused condoms from suspected sex workers to be used as evidence of prostitution.

Critics had said the previous policy amounted to police harassment, and noted that New York City spends more than $1 million a year to distribute free condoms.

Under the new NYPD policy, officers may continue to seize condoms as evidence in sex-trafficking and promotion of prostitution cases, but they will not use them in support of prostitution cases. For that reason, critics said the new policy does not go far enough, and they called for a broader, statewide ban.

For decades, police in New York and elsewhere had confiscated condoms from sex work suspects ostensibly for them to be used as evidence in criminal trials, even though the overwhelming majority of prostitution cases never go to trial.

A 2010 study by the city’s Department of Health surveyed more than 60 sex workers and found that more than half had condoms confiscated by police. Nearly a third said they had at times not carried condoms because they feared getting into trouble.

Two years later, the group Human Rights Watch interviewed 197 sex workers in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco and found that many limited the number of condoms they carried or went without because they feared police attention. The report concluded that transgender teens, street-level sex workers and immigrants were especially targeted because of their appearance or behavior.

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