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"When I was promoted to Detective and put in the vice unit, the chief of the day said to me 'I want you to get to know those women out there on the street, and I want you to get them to stop.' At the time, people believed that these women were out there because they wanted to be, that if it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be any prostitution. The reality is that in 18 years in the field, I've met three prostitutes who were happy with their work."

--JoAnn McCartney

A 27-year veteran of the Edmonton Police Service, JoAnn spent 10 years in vice and worked undercover helping to arrest johns and pimps.

"I learned a lot about prostitution from the women that I was working with. Not only did they teach me about their lives by opening up to me and telling me their stories, they also taught me how to work in five-inch heels, how to put on my makeup."

After retiring from the police force, JoAnn began to work full-time with PAAFE, the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation of Edmonton. PAAFE is dedicated to finding long-term solutions to prostitution's complex issues, and runs programs like "John School", where men charged with solicitation are educated about the realities of the industry that they support when they buy sex.

JoAnn's hands-on experience as a police officer as well as her educational background (she has her Masters in Psychology) gives her tremendous insight into the lives led by women on the street: "For women to leave the street, it's like leaving one country and moving to another. The street has its own culture, its own rules and laws, even its own way of speaking. You have to understand that not everyone is middle-class, with suburban attitudes and values." Women who are working in prostitution don't keep track of the days or times. They are often homeless, and community pressures keep them transient. "The 'high track' girls, the ones with more education and less addiction, will move from city to city, sometimes trying to get out of the street life, sometimes to prevent anyone from finding, and intervening with, their kids. But even the ones who don't leave the city are always on the move. The community doesn't want her just standing there on the street, so she keeps walking."

"The law," JoAnn says, "can be used for good, not just for punishment."

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