City leaders and community organizers are doing their best to shut down the Oakland sex trade. On Friday, they took to the streets.
Seeing the working girls along the street is what has the residents of the San Antonio and Eastlake neighborhoods so upset. The neighborhoods span International Boulevard, between 2nd and 23rd avenues and are among Oakland's most dangerous and busiest locations for illegal sex activities and robberies. That's why the community held a rally to call for a comprehensive strategy to address the sex trade in Oakland.
"Their business model includes catering to prostitution," said Barbara Parker, Oakland's city attorney.
Parker is spearheading a legal move to have the hotels that have been identified as a haven for pimps and prostitutes shut down. In 2010, her office sued the National Lodge and the Economy Inn, targeting the two properties she says has had a stinging effect on those who profit from human trafficking.
"We're trying to get the court to shut these businesses down for a year, so that they can change their business model," said Parker.
There has been some progress. More than 20 security cameras were installed along International Boulevard. A few are aimed in the direction of the National Lodge.
Mike Patel owns the National Lodge and says that his business has been unfairly targeted.
"They want to do, they do. I have a clean business," said Patel.
The march went through the neighborhood and organizers vowed to return until they're satisfied that businesses that push flesh are pushed out.
The crowd shouted, "Hey, hey don't you know that this motel has got to go!"
There are additional signs of progress. The Oakland School District has trained more than 100 staff members to recognize when a student may be at risk for sexual exploitation.