Nevada NewsMakers

News - July 9, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar

Nevada Newsmakers

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said recently on Nevada Newsmakers that it might be time to bring back a former feature of the Reno Gazette-Journal to help fight sex trafficking.

Hicks noted the RGJ used to run names of those male johns who were netted in illegal prostitution stings in Reno.

"If you remember, the Reno Gazette used to put the names of all of those men who were caught in those stings (in the paper) and they don't do that anymore," Hicks said. "I think that had a deterrent effect."

Hicks added about publishing names of illegal sex customers: "It might be a way to focus prosecution and law enforcement efforts on different facets of the sex-trafficking industry."

Hicks said he got the idea after speaking with Melissa Holland from Awaken, a group that helps women leave and transition out of commercial sexual exploitation.

"She did bring one model to my attention that is being done in Washington state," Hicks said. "And it is law enforcement not prosecuting prostitutes, the women who are being trafficked, but focusing more on the johns -- those who are purchasing it and raising the awareness of those kind of prosecutions. So there has been some real value to that."

Hicks does not approve of making prostitution legal in Nevada's largest counties as a way to protect sex workers. Prostitution in Nevada is legal is some smaller counties although referendums to ban the practice are being pushed in Lyon and Nye counties.

"We always have a handful of sex trafficking cases in our office and we look at those very seriously when they come in, "Hicks said. "But I think I would stop short in saying it would be a good idea to legalize it in our county."

Marijuana in Washoe County

Hicks said he has not seen any spikes in crime since recreational marijuana was legalized and legal pot shops opened last year across Reno. Yet he said the practice and sale of legal marijuana has not been around long enough to make a solid determination.

"To answer you candidly, I think it is still too early to tell," he said. "Has there been a huge spike in the last year? No, I have not seen that. Anecdotally we've had some cases of very serious DUI accidents involving marijuana but nothing that has caused red alarms. But I think we have to monitor it more. I think we have to see the data and go forward."Hicks has two major concerns about legalized marijuana: Driving under the influence and marijuana possession by youth. Both remain against the law.

"From an impaired driver perspective, I think logic just dictates that if you are going to introduce a drug into a community that impairs people, naturally, a percentage of those people are going to drive and cause dangerous roadways. And that is what I worry about because we all have to drive them (local roads), your kids, our family, our loved ones. We all have to go to work, have to run errands we could have no control over that one person."

Hicks noted that those with past misdemeanor pot convictions can have their records sealed away after laws passed by the 2017 Legislature.

Now, Nevadans convicted of a misdemeanor must wait just a year after sentencing is completed to ask the court to seal their record.

"Anybody, except for very serious crimes, particularity after this last legislative session, can have their record sealed," Hicks said. "You just have to petition the court. It could be marijuana, it could be DUIs. Our Legislature has made it easier for those cases to be sealed and so that could happen to anybody and that is certainly an option."