New federal prostitution laws tabled yesterday that target johns - clients of prostitutes - rather than prostitutes are in line with Saint John's current harm reduction strategy, say police.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the old law saying it put sex trade workers in harm's way.
Even with the old prostitution laws in effect, police in Saint John have been taking a harm reduction approach for years.
The consensus among addiction workers and police in Saint John is the number of people in the sex trade has dropped dramatically in recent years.
Police said that is partly because of a harm-reduction strategy adopted by city police.
Officers work closely with social organizations like AIDS Saint John.
They said methadone is much more accessible than in the past and in the rare cases where there are arrests it is usually johns who are targeted.
Saint John police chief Bill Reid said in Saint John sex workers do not need to fear police.
“If we can make sure that those folks are safe, they’re not being harmed, and at the end of the day that they get looked after in terms of addiction problems or mental health issues and those types of things, that's what I want to see,” he said.
University of New Brunswick professor Leslie Jeffrey is an expert on the issue of prostitution and chair of AIDS Saint John.
She said the current Saint John police approach is the right one.
"Is there something I need to be looking at here? Like an addiction issue or something else. And can they put them in touch with services instead of put them in jail?" she said.
The main law enforcement tool in Saint John currently is the “John letter,” mailed by police to the home of registered owners of vehicles seen cruising sex trade zones.
In the neighbourhood
Don Loeman said the young women he sees in his Paddock Street neighbourhood are underweight, stoned and disconnected.
"I was doing yard work here and she was across the street and she pulled her pants down and peed, gave me a nice wave, pulled up her pants and kept walking down the street,” he said.
Loeman said with prostitution and drug use in this part of town, it is no place for children.