Crime, Nuisances Motivate Cities to Regulate the Location of Adult Entertainment Uses

In 1988, Bruce Freeland, planning director of Bellevue, WA, surveyed the experience of other cities with adult enterprises. He finds that increased crime (e.g. rape, prostitution, drugs, robbery) and nuisances (e.g. noise, litter) often attend these businesses. Here are excerpts from his report:

…adult entertainment regulations must seek to mitigate the secondary impacts of the uses. The purpose of this section is to examine the experience of other communities and the literature on the subject in order to ascertain these secondary impacts. Although much of the data and experience with adult uses is taken from other jurisdictions, their implications to Bellevue are significant…

…police research, as described below, shows a linkage between crime rates and areas which contain concentrations of adult entertainment uses (also see the bibliography for further research).

For example, between 1969 and 1972, the number of adult theaters in the City of Detroit increased from 2 to 18 and the number of adult bookstores rose from 2 to 21. During the same period, the incidence of crime in and around these establishments increased dramatically, although hard data on the actual numbers is hidden in gross criminal statistics. The high incidence of crime together with the blighting or skid row effect of proliferating adult businesses led Detroit in 1972 to adopt stringent locational regulations for adult uses.

Similar to Detroit, the City of Cleveland experienced a rapid increase of adult uses during the early 1970’s. Unlike Detroit, Cleveland kept detailed crime statistics by census tract and by location of adult businesses. In 1976, 26 adult businesses (8 theaters and 18 bookstores) were located in Cleveland’s 204 census tracts. The same year, the two census tracts having the highest rates of crime had a total of 8 pornography outlets. Cleveland Police statistics showed that during 1976 there was an average of 20.5 robberies per census tract. In the 15 census tracts which contained adult businesses, the average was nearly double at 40.5 robberies. A single census tract which contained 5 pornography outlets and a population of only 730 persons had a total of 136 robberies. The statistics for rape echoed the same pattern as for robbery. The citywide average of rape in Cleveland in 1976 was 2.4 per census tract. In the 15 census tracts containing pornography outlets, the rate was double that.

The City of Kent, Washington had similar experiences with the Roadside Inn Tavern. Prior to its forced closing, the Roadside Inn offered topless dancing and table dancing in conjunction with its selling of alcoholic beverages. Kent police investigations conducted in the summer of 1981 revealed a very high incidence of criminal activity at the Roadside, related primarily to sex crimes (prostitution) and drug related offenses. As a result of 57 hours of on-premise investigation, 162 charges were brought against 21 persons by the Kent Police Department. The report filed by the police stated: “The total time involved, and the number of charges, break down to a time expenditure of slightly more than 20 minutes per charge, attesting to the relative ease by which the subject of prostitution arises within an environment such as the Roadside.” In September, 1981, the Roadside Inn Tavern was closed by the City of Kent.

Bothell’s experiences with Mama Hoopah’s in 1982 demonstrated similar association between the use (an adult dance hall) and the occurrence of crime. Research by the Bothell Police Department also demonstrated the regional attraction that such an establishment can have. In one investigation of the 321 vehicles checked, 8 were registered in Bothell with most of the remainder from the Puget Sound region, though others had out of state registration. This is potentially significant in that nonresidents of an area may be less inhibited in their personal behavior when away from their community. Nonresidents may also be unaware of the needs or concerns of residents/owners of areas adjacent to the adult entertainment use…

Nationwide, the proliferation of adult uses has occurred primarily within the last 10-15 years…

Based on the experience of certain Puget Sound communities, it has been demonstrated in the past that adult uses are incompatible with residential, educational, and religious uses. This fact was best demonstrated in the Greenwood area of Seattle in the mid-1970’s when a local theater began showing X-rated films. Residents of Greenwood complained loudly about increased traffic, undesirable patrons, lowered property values and other adverse impacts. Residents argued that theirs was an area of residences, churches, schools, and social gathering places, a closely-knit neighborhood unaccustomed to adult theaters and the disruptive impacts associated with such uses. In order to safeguard the character and quality of residential life in the Greenwood neighborhood, the City of Seattle adopted zoning regulations which, in effect, forced the closure of the adult theater. The owner then sued the City. In the litigation which ensued, Seattle was able to demonstrate in the record that the location of the adult theater in the Greenwood area had a harmful effect on that area and contributed to neighborhood blight. In upholding the City of Seattle, the Washington State Supreme Court (Northend Cinema v. City of Seattle) agreed that the goal of preserving the quality of residential neighborhoods by prohibiting disruptive adult uses was a valid and substantial public interest…

Likewise, a “topless” tavern disrupted the quality of life for some Kent residents. The incident involved the Roadside Inn Tavern – a tavern offering topless table dancing – and the residents of an adjacent mobile home court. In July 1981, the residents of Bonel Mobile Home Court submitted a petition requesting the Kent City Council to revoke the business license of the Roadside. At the public hearing on the license revocation, residents complained about the Roadside’s excessive noise and litter impacts which spilled over onto adjacent residential properties. As a result of public complaints and a police investigation of criminal activity at the tavern, the license for the Roadside was revoked by the City in September 1981.

See also:

License Commission to Review Alleged Capital Video Violations for Drug
Sales and Lewd Activity On or Near the Premises

The hearing, allegedly for license violations regarding five counts of
illegal activity including drug sales on or near the premises and lewd
activity, was postponed… The License Commission does
not invite public comment at its hearings, but residents can send
concerns about to: Springfield License Commission, Room
317, City Hall, Springfield, MA 01103. [The hearing has been rescheduled for June 18, 2007–details.]

Capital Video Springfield: Secondary Effects Extend to Prostitution; Actions the City Can Take
[Fred Rowe:] Outside, we have both male and female prostitutes standing
across the street, by our building, and we have a vacant lot that we
use for parking. They stand there, and they wait for [customers] to
come out, and they solicit them, and they try to take them out behind
our building, and do their business. It’s unbelievable.

Police Commissioner: “…it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes
an attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there”

“We have a great interest in the quality of life in the vicinity of the
triangle and have previously taken some steps to mitigate it. Much
remains to be done and it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes an
attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there.

“We…would work with any group that has innovative ideas for dealing
with this condition, particularly if they transcend the inherent
limitations of an enforcement only approach.”

Northampton Neighbors of Porn Shop to Include Homes, School of Dance, Counseling Centers and Churches
NPN took a walk around 135 King Street to see who will be next to
Capital Video’s proposed porn shop. Directly across North Street is the
Northampton School of Dance and ServiceNet. The latter provides mental
health counseling. A little further down King Street, still within
sight of the porn shop, is Saint Valentine’s Church, the first of
several houses of worship in this area. A little further still is
Children’s Aid and Family Service. Back closer to the porn shop, on
Myrtle Street, is Skipton House, a YWCA office and counseling center…

San Francisco: Loss of Porn Shop Brings Hope to Tenderloin District
The SRO’s with the worse conditions tend to be those above porno shops.
These businesses frequently have drug dealers doing business outside,
and take no action to remove them…

Past experience shows that making the Tenderloin safer and more
desirable requires these types of physical changes to sites, not more
police. And eliminating such problem spots not only costs no taxpayer
money, but it actually increases the city’s revenue when vacant and
underutilized sites are developed.

Secondary Effects Across America: 1977-1999
Austin, TX, 1986: Of 81 license plates traced for owner addresses, only three lived
within one mile of the sexually oriented business; 44 percent were from
outside Austin…

Seattle, WA, 1989: The increased number of cabarets resulted in citizen complaints,
including phone calls, letters (from individuals and merchant
associations) and several petitions with hundreds of signatures.
Protests cited decreased property values; increased insurance rates;
fears of burglary, vandalism, rape, assaults, drugs and prostitution;
and overall neighborhood deterioration. The report noted that patrons
of these cabarets most often are not residents of nearby neighborhoods.
Without community identity, behavior is less inhibited. Increased
police calls to a business, sirens and traffic hazards from police and
emergency vehicles are not conducive to healthy business and
residential environments.

Testimony in Minneapolis: Secondary Effects Around Adult Theaters; Police Suggest that Concerned Citizens Move Away
The police have gone to the Flick and tried to bust it time and time
again. Finally the police in our residence have said, forget it, we are
giving up, nothing has been done. We are not going in there and taking
the chance of having our heads blown off. Us, the people that live in
the neighborhood, we have to fear that day in and day out, especially
the women…

It is a sad case when the police have approached my neighbors and
myself and they said, “The best recourse you have and your husband have
and your children is to get up and move.”

3 thoughts on “Crime, Nuisances Motivate Cities to Regulate the Location of Adult Entertainment Uses

  1. Yes, this reminds me of a 2004 New York Times article, “At Home with Jenna Jameson”:

    …The house was six years old when they bought it. They redid the
    walls in hand-painted fake stone and marble finishes and in a
    leatherlike finish in their bedroom. The front door, of glass and
    hand-forged metal, is 20 feet high. ”It weighs in excess of a ton,”
    Mr. Grdina said proudly. The entrance hall floor is marble and stone
    inlay and there is a bronze and alabaster chandelier. There is also a
    gold-plated custom-frame low-rider bicycle that Ms. Jameson gave Mr.
    Grdina for his birthday.

    She showed off her walk-in closet,
    with 400 to 500 pairs of shoes and hundreds of matching handbags. ”I’m
    psychotic about purses and shoes,” she said in her slightly hoarse
    smoker’s voice.

    The master bedroom has a king-size bed with an
    ostrich-skin headboard and feathered pillows. The bathroom contains a
    6-by-7-foot bathtub-Jacuzzi on a raised platform. The couple say they
    plan to have children and will someday add a 1,500-square-foot guest
    house with a garage, gym and office…

    It’s spooky how nonchalant the media can be when talking about the sex industry and the people in it.

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