Johnny off the spot

Oct 20, 2004 at 12:00 am

Last week, Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker finally got a chance to respond to Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s decision to return some crime-prevention money to the state.

Sitting before the commission’s committee on public safety and homeland security, representatives of Worthy’s office explained why Johns TV wasn’t included in the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. They said the office disagreed philosophically with a cable show that fights prostitution by airing photos of sex-starved solicitors. Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller told News Hits that her boss feels the show aims to entertain more than educate and truly promote prevention.

So Worthy cut the program and returned its funding to the Michigan Department of Community Mental Health’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The show’s $33,000 cost, according to the mental health department, is part of a $728,040 grant.

Parker says the show’s value can’t be measured in dollars and cents. “It was a great deterrent,” he says, “because no one wants their picture on the TV screen. They also give the names of johns who’ve been arrested.”

The Denver PD also has a Johns TV program. Officials say it’s been a great deterrent.

Parker says the cash-strapped county can’t afford to give away a penny. He says representatives of the Sheriff’s Department who attended the same meeting were angry laying off 55 support staff to balance the budget.

Parker says Worthy could have asked to reallocate the money; Miller says no such request was made. Instead, the Prosecutor’s Office is using state money in the new fiscal budget for Crime Stoppers, a show that will offer rewards for fugitives in serious cases like violent crimes.

The total grant package for this year will include four programs designed to prevent truancy and domestic violence, and increase prosecutions through financial incentives and citizen involvement.

The Johns TV concept, however, lives on. It’s been picked up by the City of Detroit, where most of the cases arise anyway, Parker says. But Patricia Harris, head of the city’s Cable Commission, says it will be reduced to a segment on an as-yet untitled public safety show to air on Comcast in November.

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