bc-091106-prostitute

Vancouver police say they are asking prostitutes working the Seymour Street stroll to move elsewhere because of changing demographics in the neighbourhood, and not because high-profile Olympic officials will arrive there in three months. ((CBC))

Vancouver police are moving to shut down one of the oldest strolls in the city's sex trade just in time for the 2010 Winter Games, CBC News has learned.

For decades, the so-called high track along the 1000 block of Seymour Street has been the place where high-end sex workers ply their trade.

Located just across the street from one of the city's oldest and most notorious strip clubs, the stroll is worked every night by women dressed in little more than high boots, short shorts and underwear under their jackets.

But now police are telling the women to go somewhere else, CBC News has learned.

Const. Lindsey Houghton said the neighbourhood has changed in recent years, with condominium units replacing offices and retail buildings, and police have stepped up patrols in the area in response to an increasing number of complaints.

'I am sure they are trying to clean up the way the area looks and make sure it's all spit-shined for the Americans' —Sue Davis, sex-trade worker

"Really this is in response to the change in demographics, the complaints and the comments we have been receiving in increased numbers from the new residents in there, and that is how we are approaching it," Houghton said.

Police said the increased enforcement has nothing to do with the Olympics in February, which will take over much of the downtown area of Vancouver for most of the month.

Olympic arrivals

But Sue Davis, a sex-trade worker and activist for sex workers' rights, said she has no doubts that the expected arrival of thousands of international Olympic visitors is also behind the crackdown, pointing out that the U.S. Olympic Committee is moving in to a new commercial development on the same block.

"I'm sure it factors in hugely. We are talking about showcasing Vancouver to the world, and so I am sure they are trying to clean up the way the area looks and make sure it's all spit-shined for the Americans when they get there," Davis told CBC News

And while Davis questioned police motives, she was complimentary of their methods, noting that in the past, the women would simply have been arrested rather than asked to move on. Sex work isn't illegal, but many of the acts associated with it are, including communicating or impeding a sidewalk for the purposes of prostitution, and operating a brothel. 

It's not clear where the Seymour Street sex workers will go if they do move, but Davis said there is already a new, high-end stroll emerging much further east in Vancouver at Kingsway and Joyce Street.