Jun 29, 2006

New Feature: "John Watch"

prostitute Left: A female on Champlain near Mulberry beckons to passing cars on June 29, 2006 at 5:23 pm

(Toledo, OH) A few weeks ago a fellow Toledoan suggested that bloggers might use their websites to highlight neighborhood crime, bringing attention to ongoing problems through citizen journalism.

The result of this brainstorming is "John Watch," in which I will document street-level solicitation in Toledo neighborhoods.

Left: Male driver of the pictured vehicle drives away on northbound Champlain with the woman, 5:25 pm

I am in the process of refining this series, and I will likely bring a driver in the future. I found it difficult to simultaneously drive, take photographs, and catch all the pertinent details.

The Ohio license plate of the light-green sedan had a vanity phrase "XXXXXXX." Note: I am removing license plate numbers from this series under legal advice.

I did not get a good look at the driver of the vehicle, and I was not able to recognize the brand and model of the vehicle. Perhaps a more savvy reader will be able to pinpoint the type of vehicle.

I am desirous to get feedback on improving this series, as well as problem areas that could be highlighted. Think of this as an interactive series that is akin to TV's COPS, only in a blog format.


BrianMaxson said...

Them there is one of those new-fangled Cadilliacs, a 2006 Deville-replacement I think. Those be a quite expensive whore bucket.

Superior Street, between Bush and Lagrange is also a prime trolling point, Mike.

Matter of fact, knowing the neighborhood like I do, Summit to Champlain, Lagrange to Bush is a crack-whore feeding frenzy.

And prime viewing time for this fiasco is 5pm-9pm.

Paul said...

I actually started in college to troll and watch for hookers in Toledo. (not for use!) I called it HP, short for Hooker Patrol. Prostitution is a HUGE problem in Toledo. I can start snapping pics of them when I see them. Let me know if you want me to help you out.

Anonymous said...

What in the world are you thinking?!?! You are a prime candidate for a lawsuit. You don't know the woman is a prostitute; you don't know the male driver is a john. This is very dangerous territory, Mike.

historymike said...

A couple of thoughts:

1. Personally I do not care what people do behind closed doors. It's when they conduct their business in public - in people's front yards - that I have a problem.

2. As far as what I "know": I know that the woman engaged in the sort of flirtatious non-verbal communication that hookers typically exhibit, and that the driver of the vehicle stopped, let her in, and drove away with the same woman.

As a former business owner on a street that prostitutes frequented, I am quite familiar with what is known as "the hooker walk."

I may have to add disclaimers, or refine the terms that I use, but the activity took place in broad daylight in an area notorious for drugs and prostitution.

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

Actually, what you need is a YouTube spot to post video of the whole encounter, which would be much more revealing than the stills.

Lisa Renee said...

Becareful, some of these people are not going to want to be photographed and some of these women do have pimps that are not going to be overly thrilled about this once it gets out.

I understand what you are trying to do but you do have a family to consider. My concern would not be someone you identify filing a lawsuit it'd be men who are low enough to make money off of forcing women to sell their bodies to give them money deciding they had a problem with you. Especially doing this alone is not to me a smart move.

Micah said...

You're definately in dangerous territory.

First the Neo-Nazis and now prostitutes...

Living on the edge, brother!!

Anonymous said...


I remember a couple of years ago there was a push to identify the johns through license plate numbers. It was quite controversial.

An interesting note, teenagers who are prostituted are actually considered crime victims.

I give you a lot of credit Mike. Do it; do it carefully; but do it.

karen said...

I agree with others here, Mike.

Please be careful.

The idea is good, but could be very dangerous.

Be safe!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you care about your neighborhood. I'm glad you want to help clean it up. However, this line of action is a bad idea. Not only do you risk personal injury, but you riska libel lawsuit by stating these people are prositutes and johns.

If you wish to document "suspicious activity" and label it as such, you might be ok. Even there you're treading on thin ice.

Leave the license plate tracking and investigating to the police. Once they've charged a person, you can call her an "alleged" prostitute. Once they've convicted her, you can call her a "convicted" prostitue. Until then, you're asking for trouble.

Brian1984 said...


This is material for a Free Press article.

Don't "give away" your best stuff on your blog. Get it into print and get the compensation you should receive for your investigative reporting.

Brian Schwartz

Peahippo said...

Prediction for Mike: This surveillance project will succeed until a Toledo Notable (councilman, businessman or clergy) is caught on tape. Then the cops will start pulling you over while you're out snapping photos. OR, the Notable will sue you to have the pics removed since you cannot prove the actual crime was being committed.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Just amazing. Back where I came from they, at least had houses and kept the whole thing under cover. I guess I've led a sheltered life.

historymike said...

Many thanks for the excellent suggestions, all.

A few more thoughts:

1. This series is most definitely in a legal gray area. TFP has expressed interest, but also expressed concerns about getting their pants sued off them.

2. Love the YouTube Idea, NWTPG. I may try out my digital recorder on the next trip.

3. Agreed also about johns, pimps, or hookers getting violent. My goal is to avoid direct confrontation and to remain as surreptitious as possible. Without divulging any "trade secrets," I think that I have taken the necessary precautions to prevent myself from becoming a part of the story. Of course, someone could use personal information from this blog to hunt me down later, but that could be said about most topics in which I write.

4. Peahippo raises an interesting point, and one I must admit I have considered. What if I happen upon a "notable" conducting business? Gotta think through that one with an attorney.

5. I became interested in this topic through another series on abandoned houses. While I stand to gain some financial renumeration from this if a paper such as TFP runs the series, I really look at this as a small contribution to improving life in some of Toledo's toughest neighborhoods. This took me one hour, plus about $2.00 in gas, to put together. Quite frankly, this is like shooting fish in a barrel, as there are plenty of participants in the market of flesh.

Anonymous said...

This "Story" is a waste of time, did u accomplish ANYTHING from it?

Don said...


Regarding the program you propose, two concerns come to mind:

First, an individual is identified as a "john", and identified in print or online. But, it turns out that the photographer/blogger was mistaken, and no prostitution was taking place. In that case, the "john" would likely have a strong case for defamation. Here's the prima facie case for defamation:

1) Statement made concerning plaintiff;

2) Statement published to at least one other party;

3) Statement was false (even if person didn't know it was false);

4) Statement lowered plaintiff's reputation in at least some part of community.

By the way, statements alleging sexual misconduct or criminal behavior are PER SE defamatory. So, any bloggers or publishers who misidentify a "john" and publish that information will very likely be liable in damages for defamation.

The second problem situation is where a blogger or publisher publicly identifies a "john" who happens to be an actual john. Tort law recognizes claims for public disclosure of embarassing personal facts. Here's the prima facie case:

1) Public disclosure of matters,
2) concerning plaintiff's private life,
3) in which plaintiff is identified,
4) the publication of which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities, AND
5) the matter publicized is not of legitimate public concern.

Element 5) would be the most difficult for a plaintiff to prove. "Newsworthiness" is a complete defense to public disclosure of embarrassing facts claims. So, you need to find out (legally speaking) whether or not disclosing the identity of "johns" is "newsworthy" for the purpose of protecting yourself from a potential "embarassing facts" suit.

In summary, find a good lawyer, and run your proposed program by them. First, you need to know if you would be vulnerable to "public disclosure of embarrassing facts" claims. If not, you could proceed, with the caveat that mistakes could leave you open for a defamation suit.

I'd help out, but I have not yet passed the bar. So, I cannot do more than offer a warning and encourage you to consult with a licensed lawyer. Let me know what you find out.

UTKev from Toledo Talk said...


While this is not related, there is a gay-oriented porn website featuring Toledo locals. Judging by the HTML coding, the webmaster is somewhat amateurish, all ‘plug and play’ type applets. I believe it is run out of a house in the Old West End.

Just a warning... visit carefully. One of my friends is featured on the website and I was STUPIFIED when someone told me he was listed. We are still friends and he explained the workings of the site to me. I am not sure if he'd want to discuss it with you, but I'd be happy to relay some questions back and forth.

More to the point, off this website is a link to a Toledo based escort service. This might help avoid one of Don's legal quandaries of falsely identifying a 'john.'

Send me a message via ToledoTalk if you are interested in more info. I don’t want to list the site here and give it more publicity. Someone might have a heart attack when they find their godson/neighbor/friend's son on the website.

And like Brian said, FreePress this! You’d be working to hard to just ‘blog it.’ I don’t know what the laws are, but might you run into trouble imitating The Blade’s prostitution stories?


Kate said...

Be careful, I posted that on toledotalk Mike. The mission was involved with some of this - and I was aghast at the number, the sheer volume of women in Toledo that are prostitutes.

I hope you're using a zoom lens. And I hope that you have someone to watch YOU so that no one can sneak up on you. At this time - you should take your last name off of this site at least until you are done with this series.

I'd approach the FP also - this is indeed an award winning potential as well as a community service.

But alot of people get hurt trying to do the right thing. We can round up some riders if you like - I do not like the idea of your being alone out there.

historymike said...


Email me at mbrooks AT utnet DOT utoledo DOT edu and we will talk.

Anonymous said...

Historymike said:
1. Personally I do not care what people do behind closed doors. It's when they conduct their business in public - in people's front yards - that I have a problem."

This is exactly how I feel about HOMOSEXUALITY Mike

Hooda Thunkit said...


Are you sure about doing this Mike?

Seems to be an awfully high and thin wire that you're trying to cross on this one.

Plenty of pitfalls...

monocle said...

I understand your sense of duty to your family and community (and BTW I enjoy your blog), but this project makes my skin crawl. Isn't there a way of dealing with the problem without potentially harming reputations? What is the end goal? That these people should be incarcerated (while you speak of precautions for your own safety)? If it weren't for your precautions, you could just stand across the street and cast pebbles at them, and then maybe they'd just leave. I don't mean to be facetious, though I guess that's my natural reaction here. I'm sincerely having trouble understanding your intentions. Is this really responsible citizenry? Because it sounds more Hardy Boys flashbacks mixed with moral soapboxing.

Maybe, if you're interested, you could explain more clearly the end goals. And I'm sure you've thought through the rights and the wrongs of the project. I'm interested to hear how you decided this was the right thing to do because it doesn't strike me as a right thing at all.

SensorG said...

For street and massage parlor activity in Toledo try this link…


A lot of stuff going on out there...

Kate said...

Mike, monocle asks if this is responsible citizenry. I'd say most definitely yes. I want you to be careful - and there are always many reasons to turn a blind eye to things - and just a few, sometimes only one reason to do the right thing.

If the police were able to get the problem under control you wouldn't have found anything to photograph.

Anonymous said...

I an so envious of your site! I want one like yours so badly. I am the new Block Watch Leader for my neighborhood, Which really has nothing to do with it, but if I had a digital camera, I would document neighborhood crime the same way you are. WHAT A GREAT IDEA! Thank you for the inspiration.

May I provide a link to this post from my http://toledoeast.blog-city.com account?
Thanks, either way, "TTownRobin"

Anonymous said...

PS. One more thing I think I should mention...If we all were afraid of hurt or killed for trying to do something ourselves about the crime, then the crime committed in Toledo would much greater...ask any Block Watch member in the city, especially the area where the boy shot the policeman, and in the Old West end. Great things have been done by caring citizens.

Here's an example:
From 2003 to 2005, drug deals had been going on at the apartment across the street from me, all hours of the day and night, but especially on Thursdays and Fridays. The local police told me not to hesitate to call each and every time there was illegal activity going on. The number of police allocated to each sector is determined by how many calls each area recieves each month.
I must have called about it a "hundred" times, and not one thing was ever done about it..no arrests were made and if a unit DID come, they showed up after it was all over with and all the cars were gone.(in fact, one Toledo policeman named Rick, is a friend of my next door neighbor and referred to me as "the cop caller' when he would go over to visit!) No arrests were ever made because most of the selling was being done INSIDE the apartment. The police can only make an arrest if it is being done out in public, OR if it is a BIG drug deal that they were monitoring, otherwise, they pretty much just don't have time for it.

I got so tired of losing sleep and my child being afraid all the time of the "bad" people that hung around by my house, that I made a sign that said "IF YOU ARE BUYING OR SELLING DRUGS - YOU ARE BEING WATCHED. Signed the Neighborhood Block Watch." The drug buying and selling activity stopped within a two week period. Oh sure, they were still partying all hours of the night, but no "customers", no constant beeping, and no "in-and-out" traffic.
BTW, it was the apartment in E. Toledo where they found the dead guy in the closet, decomposed for 3 weeks. (AND FYI: the lady who LEFT him there, WHO I WITNESSED LEAVING HIM THERE AND MOVING OUT and the Police also did nothing about that either, was found dead in the bathtub herself a few weeks later on Arden Place!!)

ANYWAY..I was warned to take the sign down, and to keep an eye on my daughter and my property..but nothing happened and the drug selling stopped.
SO YOU KEEP ON DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING. IF you ended up hurt or dead, everyone would have a picture of who was involved in it, wouldn't they? Someone has to take a stand. I admire you for not cowering away instead of being one of the masses who complains about the crime yet does nothing about it. There are only so many officers to go around...
KUDOS, TTownRobin

Anonymous said...

citizen asshole