Los Angeles is considering a controversial policy to help cut down on prostitution: City Council voted this week to have the city attorney's office review a proposal to send warning letters to the owners of cars spotted in areas frequented by prostitutes, reports the Los Angeles Daily News. The plan would rely on license plate information to discover the owners. While some residents say the move may scare away would-be johns, a civil liberties group has reservations because a driver's movements could be tracked through license plate data, per CBS Los Angeles. "What happens if you have legitimate reason to be in a neighborhood?" asks a researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is in the middle of a lawsuit against LA police over the collection of license plate data.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who put forth the motion, says "if you aren't soliciting, you have no reason to worry about finding one of these letters in your mailbox. But if you are, these letters will discourage you from returning." The plan is nothing new: Authorities have sent so-called "john letters" to people in Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Oakland, where "residents record license plate numbers and descriptions of known or suspected johns and their vehicles, and forward the information to police," according to a 2012 report. The letters are usually "cordial" and "make it clear that police do not assume the owner of the vehicle was the person driving it," reports the AP. But "let's say that letter comes in and your wife, your girlfriend or mother gets it," a local business owner adds. "Maybe it's a wake-up call." (Meanwhile, sex traffickers have found a foothold in South Dakota.)