Los Angeles officials announced plans today to target pimps and johns in the San Fernando Valley, while trying to help juvenile prostitutes who want out of the sex trade. “We’re standing here to declare that these streets no longer belong to the pimps and the johns, but that they belong to the families of the 6th Council District,” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez said at a news conference in Van Nuys today.

“Families shouldn’t have to see young girls solicited on their way to the grocery store or to have to step on condoms while they are strapping their children into their car seats.” Cracking down on prostitution has been on Martinez’s agenda since she was elected in July. “For too long the women have been treated like criminals instead of tackling the problem head on,” Martinez said. “This is backwards.”

Martinez said her office was dedicating resources to add two patrol cars

to prostitution details in Sun Valley and Van Nuys Police will start towing and impounding vehicles belonging to johns or pimps, she said.” Our children will not be victimized by grown men and our neighborhoods will be safe,” Martinez said, adding that she would review the effort in six months.

City Attorney Mike Feuer said there is a need to go beyond arrests and convictions. “We need to be addressing, not just the initial active arrest, but the underlying issues that led to the perpetration of the crime in the first place,” Feuer said.

Stephanie Powell, executive director of the Mary Magdalene Project, said the District Attorney’s diversion program would help young women who want to get out of prostitution.

Juveniles arrested on suspicion of prostitution who agree to enter the program dubbed First Step will be referred to therapy, substance abuse programs and services for victims of sexual assault, among other social services. If they successfully complete a yearlong program, they will have a chance to clear their prostitution arrest, according to the District Attorney’s Office.