[May 9 update: See Springfield Police Commissioner Edward Flynn’s email to NoPornNorthampton at Springfield Police Commissioner: “…it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes an attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there”]
On April 30, NoPornNorthampton mailed over 1,700 letters (PDF) to voters in the
Apremont Triangle area of Springfield. This neighborhood is home to a Capital Video porn shop called Amazing.net. The letter makes suggestions based on what we have learned about how to mitigate
the harm from adult enterprises, and is bundled with a postcard (PDF) that voters can mail to Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan. See our May 1 press release about this mailing.
Based on reporting this year from Urban Compass, a blog at the Valley Advocate, it appears that Springfield’s Amazing.net has become a locus of crime and prostitution, to the extent that it is impeding revitalization of the area. These are examples of “secondary effects”, which have often been seen to attend adult enterprises.
In the fall of 2006, the Northampton City Council, concerned about the risk of secondary effects, passed
legislation to regulate the size and location of adult enterprises.
Towns such as Kittery, Maine,
have found that even simple actions like removing the doors from
viewing booths can substantially improve conditions in and around the store. We suggest the people of Springfield:
- Pass viewing booth health regulations (example), including removing the doors from the booths.
- Shut down adult enterprises as public nuisances when they generate
more crime, blight and unsafe activity than the surrounding
neighborhood can reasonably tolerate. The harms that Amazing.net is currently imposing on Apremont Triangle appear to justify its being shut down on this basis.
- Pass improved adult-use zoning regulations for Springfield (example). This
includes requiring adult enterprises to be located at least 500-1,000
feet away from homes, schools, houses of worship and other locations
where children are likely to be found. Existing adult enterprises can
be compelled to move within a specified period of time, such as 1-5
years (this is called “amortization”).
- Encourage local media such as the Springfield Republican to cover these issues more closely. Sometimes
media outlets are inclined to go easy on adult enterprises because of
perceived First Amendment issues. Other media outlets receive
substantial advertising revenues from the sex industry.
NoPornNorthampton does not advocate for increased government censorship
of media. All of our regulatory suggestions have been upheld by US
courts as compatible with the First Amendment. Regulations such as
adult-use zoning have generally been found to impose only slight
burdens on speech, while securing important public benefits.
Springfield police dispatch reports from December 1998 through April 2007 paint a picture of burglaries, panic alarms, ambulance calls and altercations in and around the Amazing.net store at Apremont Triangle. The address of the store, which is also known as Video Expo, is 486 Bridge Street. Here are excerpts from the reports:
7/1/99 (1:21pm): Across the street from [486 Bridge Street] in the parking lot there is a man laid out…AMR in route
7/29/99 (4:28pm): Hold up alarm
8/2/99 (4:52pm): Panic alarm
8/13/99 (12:49pm): Panic alrm coming from the Video Expo
2/21/00 (4:24pm): …female, tan coat, jeans, wht sneakers is harassing customers at Video Expo–was asked to leave and refused
4/6/00 (6:26pm): Male passed out in bathroom at Video Expo–ambl needs asst
6/14/00 (8:31pm): Panic alarm
7/9/00 (9:04pm): Panick alrm
7/29/00 (3:02pm): Wants dk [drunk] customer removed from the store… Customer is screaming and yelling.
7/31/00 (4:01pm): Customer refuses to leave he is possibly dk
10/17/00 (12:47am): Breaking & entering… Someone on the roof. He jumped, fled onto Winter… Y19 has suspect in custody on Matoon St. 7 for suspect, has injuries. Officers also exposed to hos fluids.
11/1/00 (4:19pm): Panic alarm
11/2/00 (11:33pm): 2 men casing car complainant feels they may steal it
11/13/00 (10:55pm): Larc of videos… Thief caught on video
11/18/00 (2:31am): …man assaulted by woman with knife… Cabby witness stabbing… AMR has the victim, transporting to hospital
12/9/00 (1:17pm): Act panic
2/1/01 (9:10pm): For a male in the store–dk–hit the female
2/19/01 (5:17pm): …larc of some of the receipts by the noe–ex employee
2/25/01 (6:48pm): For the customer they need escorted out…he is disturbing customers and not putting money in the booth
2/28/01 (10:34pm): For a male locked in one of the booths…seems to be dk
4/14/01 (7:22pm): Manager states that one of his customers was just mugged for a video bought
4/29/01 (9:44am): …store was just broken into
5/12/01 (8:54pm): States there is a man inside destroying the place and will not leave. This subj is now wielding a knife. Subj is now in custody.
5/30/01 (6:29am): Alarm…Gen burg
6/9/01 (8:26pm): Hold up alrm at X-PO
9/12/01 (11:51pm): Caller states there is a…male waiting outside the styore for a coustomer to come out… He started to fight with this man inside the store and was asked to leave and is now sitting outside waiting.
12/31/01 (1:19am): Glass break in frnt
2/6/02 (8:14am): Alarm…Commercial burg
3/11/02 (12:40pm): Dk male refusing to leave from the store
7/25/02 (9:10pm): Several hookers hanging out here
8/9/02 (4:32pm): …deranged woman yelling front of store and in shopping area here… Compl says she is prostitute.
8/16/02 (10:03am): Asst the store manager in getting a set of keys to the store back…they were stolen last nite…they have a subj on tape…that subj is a known person
9/15/02 (3:26pm): Take rept from [name] says someone stole $15.00 from him
10/17/02 (11:54pm): Armed robbery… $888… caller states his store was just robbed
10/18/02 (6:16pm): Beligerant dk male here… He left may come back
11/18/02 (7:14pm): Dk subj who was laying on the ground, is now up, and wandering into the street. Caller doesn’t want him to get hit.
12/10/02 (8:41am): Alarm…Gen burg
12/16/02 (2:42pm): The guy in the giants coat wouldn’t leave the store. Now hes hussling customers outside.
12/20/02 (1:31pm): Ambl…enroute…dk male felled down hit his head…and is still down…
1/3/03 (4:55pm): Caller repting threatning male is back again
2/18/03 (9:10pm): A [male] with a bright red jacket just stole some videos and left the store
3/16/03 (1:12pm): Subject smoking crack inside white car…
3/17/03 (9:23am): Male in parking lot in white m/v with pants off
4/4/03 (8:21pm): Rude customer yelling and screaming in the store. Refusing to leave.
5/22/03 (3:59pm): Lar ceny of DVDs
5/31/03 (7:06pm): There’s a dk smoking in the booth. The clerk has already thrown him out 3 times.
6/4/03 (1:15am): Alarm…General burg
6/13/03 (9:24pm): States that X employee took the money from the cash register…
6/15/03 (12:28am): …hold up alarm… inplied knife wanted for attempted armed robbery
7/18/03 (12:42am): Alarm…Gen burg
8/10/03 (7:19pm): Compliant states that a man has a large laceration above his eye. AMR would like an assist.
8/25/03 (9:30am): Glas break detector alrm going off
8/27/03 (1:02pm): Male subj just ran East from the store with some DVD’s…
8/27/03 (4:53pm): The mgr calls; a drunk male were not leave the store; he is breaking items
9/9/03 (6:22pm): [Male] shoplifter and now is about ti fight with the clerk he wants to leave
9/30/03 (4:06pm): Person passed out
10/1/03 (6:45pm): Dk male out front asking 4 ambl. Really dk over 70 YOA.
10/5/03 (12:33am): Alarm…Gen burg
10/31/03 (3:14pm): Elderly man is falling down drunk in front of the store
10/31/03 (7:17pm): Wants dk person removed from infront of the store
11/4/03 (8:16pm): Arguing with shoplifter
11/6/03 (8:24am): General alarm
11/15/03 (9:32pm): Clerk states man that shoplifted from store about an hour ago is now back, and the man is inside one of the boothes, watching porno
12/20/03 (1:44pm): Subject is there again causing a dist[urbance]
2/14/04 (12:58am): Alarm…Gen burg
2/17/04 (10:26am): Theft of a radio from the compls m/v
2/23/04 (11:16pm): Manger of store says there is a man outside of his store that may or may not need an ambulance, AMR notified and enroute
2/27/04 (10:37pm): Vic[tim] told manager to call police. Stated he was pistol whipped.
3/1/04 (4:05pm): Dk male wearing blue and yellow jacket. Causing trouble.
3/4/04 (1:09pm): …elderly male wearing tran jacket is there again is dk
3/8/04 (2:42pm): …elderly male refuses to leave the store
3/13/04 (10:22pm): [Male] causing a disturbance and trying to steal items from the store
3/18/04 (10:10pm): …male red bike stole porn from store
4/10/04 (12:45am): Alarm…General burg
4/15/04 (7:48pm): Possible subj who stole items
4/24/04 (12:30pm): Fem clerk has an irate male customer who is refusing to leave. Verbally abusive at this point.
7/2/04 (7:56pm): He is stealing movies… Male had stolen movies earlier and now is back.
7/18/04 (1:08pm): Customer argued with her, and threatened to come back with a gun
8/9/04 (10:41am): A subject with a key broke in and took money from safe… They believe they may know who did this.
8/20/04 (6:38pm): Domestic disturbance… states her boyfriend…is attempting to assault her
9/1/04 (12:44am): Alarm…glass break in the front
9/3/04 (2:21pm): For stolen video subject ran off
10/1/04 (5:44pm): Shag the drunk
10/16/04 (8:06pm): Dk male, drinking inside store and urinating all over the place – has been there for a while and is refusing to laeve
12/10/04 (1:09pm): Caller says he is drunk and keeps coming in and out of the store
12/12/04 (2:58am): Alarm…glass break front
12/16/04 (12:17pm): …male…just stole several DVD’s and videos
12/31/04 (12:08pm): Ambl enroute…dk male collapsed on the ground after being asked to leave by clerk. Is breathing but not very responsive.
1/15/05 (8:52pm): Caller states man in store was told to leave and wont woman caller is alone… Said he would be back caller closes at 12:00 and is afraid.
1/27/05 (9:08pm): Manager and customer fighting…clerk refused to give any other info than this.
6/13/05 (9:39pm): Caller states that a…male went into store and into her purse and took her things out. And he took a DVD and took her things from her purse.
7/20/05 (5:30pm): Customer manager dispute
9/12/05 (5:55pm): Caller states there is a unconcious female in the alley next to the store
10/28/05 (9:36pm): [Male] about 30’s is poss paaing out in one of the video booths… AMR enrt.
12/1/05 (5:17pm): Comp states there is a dk male in the store that is refusing to leave… Very intoxicted.
12/7/05 (12:53am): Alarm…General burg
1/24/06 (9:58pm): Caller say male outside drunk harrassing cust
3/10/06 (5:02pm): Caller states that there is a male that is causing a dist. Caller states that he is swearing and the male is claiming that he is an undercover cop… The male grabbed him and is knocking over things.
3/12/06 (10:53am): An altercation inside store. For Video Expo. Says he didnt call.
3/25/06 (8:22pm): Caller says…male there causing a dist. Screaming and yelling at the employees… He is now outside the store refusing to leave. He was in the store earlier trying to steal videos.
3/29/06 (9:21pm): He got all loud with the employees. He is waiting outside for the employee to get off work… So he could fight them… Apperently he did not pay for his booth rental.
4/2/06 (8:14pm): Caller states that there is a dk female arguing and sitting in the middle of the rd.
6/2/06 (9:01am): Comm alarm
7/8/06 (1:33pm): Subject stole merchandise and took off
8/13/06 (4:07pm): Caller says there is a vagrent out side hassassing the customers
8/13/06 (5:37pm): Caller states that he needs asst removing a male
8/13/06 (9:13pm): Male…just assaulted comp & is still outside store… Comp states he split her head open… Unk how they are aquainted. Comp states she barely knows him.
10/11/06 (2:12pm): Customer is dk not moving. He is in one of the booths. AMR enroute wants asst… Amazing Video’s has a male in the video booth using inhalants and refuses to leave. AMR is going the male may need medical attention.
10/30/06 (1:49pm): Comp was just assaulted ba a male subj punched in the face
11/10/06 (12:33am): Alarm…Gen burg
11/10/06 (7:00pm): 2 females fighting
12/1/06 (8:24am): Alarm…Gen burg
12/18/06 (6:58pm): Male needs to be removed from the store
1/15/07 (9:23pm): 6 [males] standing outside store. Callere thinks there are going to rob him.
3/26/07 (6:25pm): [Male] refusing to leave. He is dk. Arguing with emeployess.
Comments on Squirt.org shed additional light on the environment inside the Amazing.net store. Squirt is a website that helps members cruise for casual sex. Of all the Squirt listings for Springfield, the Amazing.net store currently has the most comments (37).
Here is Squirt’s official description for the Amazing.net store:
Most booths in arcade have glory holes, many times you can share a booth, have recieved some of the best blow jobs in my life here. Always some action going on. It’s got 20 booths, 3 large glory holes, several peep holes
Squirt member comments suggest Amazing.net’s Springfield store cycles between being (profitably) permissive, then restricting activities to avoid being shut down by the city. Similar cycles are hinted at in the comments about Amazing.net’s Kittery, Maine store (explicit). Lasting changes appear to have taken hold only when Kittery passed health regulations and removed the doors from the viewing booths. Here are some of the recent comments on the Springfield store:
finghorny, 6/2/06: glory holes closed up again somone bring some tools and reopen them
pornman, 8/3/06: stopped by tonight to see whats up, the holes have been reopened !!!!!!!!! had a nice time.
justme03, 11/30/06: was there wed day 1:30ish busy but holes are closed and very bright now all the light in the hall or on. dont they know theres more money going in the machines with lights off and holes in the walls
a1buttmuncher, 12/5/06: They have been cited by the city and had to close up the holes and they are keep a close eye on the back. The lights are up and if they see you opening doors they will throw you out. They are very serious I witnessed the manager throwing out a guy I saw there all the time. Be careful and discreet or you will not place to play during the cold winter months. I agree that it is not really worth the time with the bright lights and no holes but they will be back eventually. Be Patient!
Many Porn Shops with Viewing Booths Likely Fall Short of OSHA Standards
In 2006, compliance appears to have been an issue at Capital Video’s
porn shop in Kittery, Maine. This porn shop contains 16 viewing booths.
We recall last year’s testimony from Kittery’s police chief (emphasis added):
On January 30, two detectives went inside dressed in plain clothes and
equipped with the ultraviolet light, as well as collection material.
They entered booths, closed the doors, turned on the ultraviolet light
and observed what appeared to be tremendous amounts of body fluids on
all three walls and on the floor. The next night, the detectives
followed the same procedure. Samples were sent to the Main Street Lab
and on February 13, 2006, he received the results confirming that all
swabbings taken in the four booths contained semen. The
Chief said their informant told them that on numerous occasions he had
tried to clean but had not been given any information on how to wash
the areas properly. Police Chief Strong said he believed the
collection of material they made, along with the lab results, showed
beyond a reasonable doubt that there were body fluids being exchanged
or deposited that other people were exposed to and asked Council if
they had any questions.
US Court of Appeals Upholds Minneapolis Regulation of Porn Viewing Booths
The affidavits and testimony of Minneapolis law enforcement officers, health care experts, and appellant Campbell, clearly establish that booths in adult bookstores are used for fellatio and anal intercourse, both deemed high risk sexual activity by the ordinance. Officer Severson testified to seeing hundreds of instances of sodomy, indecent exposure, and prostitution in the booths of adult bookstores over the past six years. (Motion Hearing on Preliminary Injunction Tr. 156-57). Officer Ronald Christianson, also a member of the Minneapolis Police Department, in an affidavit submitted to the council, stated that the booths in the adult bookstores in his precinct were unsanitary and provided opportunities for indecent exposure, oral sex, and anal sex. (Jt.App. at A.122-24)…
Although we recognize that this ordinance cannot by itself prevent the spread of the AIDS virus in Minneapolis, we believe that it will serve to reduce high risk conduct leading to the spread of AIDS. Further, we believe that this is a situation where a “city must be allowed a reasonable opportunity to experiment with solutions to admittedly serious problems.”