Atlanta — Years of persistent efforts to shut down pornography peddling have largely paid off in Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Fla., and most recently in Atlanta. Law enforcement tactics differed in each city, but common to all three was a willingness to keep pressure on the pornographers.
"If prosecutors all over the US would go to work on this, it [the pornography trade] could be closed down nationwide," says prosecutor Hinson McAulliffe of Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta. The number of pornographic theaters, book stores, and "peep" shows in Atlanta is down from 44 four years ago to only 4 today.
In Jacksonville, the number of hard-core pornographic establishments has dropped over the past four years from about 12 to zero, according to Capt. Robert W. Coristin of the sheriff's office of Duval County, which includes Jacksonville.
Citizen pressure, including picketing of porno shops, made a crackdown high priority, says Mr. Coristin.In addition, use of the state obscenity and anti-racketeering laws proved effective, he said.
Cincinnati's main crackdown on hardcore pornographic establishments took place in the mid-1970s. Simon L. Leis Jr., county prosecuting attorney, explains that the Ohio obscenity law was not very effective -- penalizing employees but not closing down pornographic establishments. So the state civil nuisance law was used to shut down porno businesses for up to a year in cases where a "pattern" of obscenity was found.
"That's how we cleaned up the community," says Mr. Leis.
In Atlanta, at first, employees of the pornographic establishments were arrested for distributing obscene materials. But behind-the-scenes owners posted bonds, hired lawyers, and paid the fines.
As a result, the porno trade still "thrived," says prosecutor McAulliffe. Later, his staff began prosecuting customers of these businesses, primarily for illegal sexual conduct in viewing booths of the "peep" shows.
Finally, the Georgia nuisance law was used at the suggestion of assistant county prosecutor Leonard Rhodes. About 95 percent of those charged with violations in the past four years have been convicted by juries, says McAullife, and the number of pornographic establishments dropped from 44 to about half that number.
Early this January, attorneys for all but four of the remaining pornography businesses in Atlanta agreed to close if pending cases against them were not pursued for six months. After six months the cases will be dropped if the owners do not attempt to reopen in Atlanta.
Whether cases will be revived if the owners try to set up shop near Atlanta -- but outside of Fulton County jurisdiction -- has not been decided.
A prosecutor in neighboring DeKalb County, as well as some Fulton County law enforcement sources, contend much of the porno trade in Atlanta thrived on money from out-of-towners attending conventions here.
McAulliffe disagrees: "I don't think they [the pornographers] were depending on the convention b usiness."