Cleaning out red light areas

Cleaning out red light areas

In an effort to clean up Zurich’s Langstrasse, authorities in Zurich are buying the brothels in the notorious red light district and converting them into housing.

One property owner whose building had been rented out to prostitutes, sold the place to the city council for CHF1.7 million ($1.3 million). The building was then renovated and converted into apartments for young people.

The initiative is part of the “Langstrasse Plus” project, launched in 2001 to improve conditions for residents in a neighbourhood known for drugs and prostitution.

Though the scheme has been partially successful, both police and city officials admit that they still had their work cut out. “The criminal gangs are constantly changing their tactics,” said Rolf Vieli, who heads Langstrasse Plus.

“We are far from being on top of the whole situation,” said Esther Maurer, the city’s police director, “but we are preventing it from getting any worse.”

Up to 20 “salons” have been forced out, yet the number of prostitutes working the streets continues to rise.

Langstrasse, which lies behind the northern Swiss city’s main railway station, is home to around 40,000 people. However, families have been steadily moving away from the area mainly due to the constant nuisance by clients streaming in day and night in search for sex and drugs. The exodus is predicted to continue for the next 20 years.

More than 3,000 prostitutes are officially registered with the city authorities, but the police say there are also several hundred illegal prostitutes employed in the city’s sex trade.

Recent estimates suggest that there are around 11,500 prostitutes at work across Switzerland, three times as many as a decade ago.

The Zurich authorities say they are anxious not to limit prostitution to one or two specific areas–a strategy, pursued by some Swiss towns and cities.

The city is striving for a compromise that makes life bearable for residents. Its success depends on making the streets safe, ensuring children can play in the parks, and also reclaiming property from the sex trade.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Swiss News

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning