HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's a sight folks who live in southwest Houston have become accustomed to; Night walking, solicitation for sex, and prostitution. Until recently.
"Now, they're showing up, and nobody's out here. It's a ghost town at night," Commander Reece Hardy, with HPD's Westside Division, said.
Since May 16, HPD's westside division has been shutting down Centre Parkway and Plainfield between Bissonnet and the Southwest Freeway nightly. At 10 p.m., the barriers go up, and they don't come down until early the next morning.
Neighbors in the area said they've noticed a difference.
"It's helping. We don't see them. It's been about two weeks. We've seen police activity, but we don't see them," Vanessa Flores said.
Julio Cerpas has run Thunder Auto Sound on Bissonnet near Centre for 21 years. He applauds HPD's initiative.
"Whatever the authorities are doing, it's working. So I see much of a difference now, and it's great. I'm so happy for that," he said.
So how are things stacking up numerically? According to our 13 Investigates team, in April, HPD responded to 20 prostitution offenses in that area and 15 in the same region in May. So far in June, they've responded to zero prostitution offenses in that area.
The goal is for the shutdowns to prevent people from making a continuous loop in a notorious area everyone wants to be cleaned up. It looks like all it took was taking a different approach.
"How this is different than previous initiatives is that we're not focused solely on trying to arrest our way out of the problem. We're really trying to build in more environmental design-related solutions," Hardy said.
One thing HPD wanted to emphasize is that everyone who's out there walking the street isn't doing so voluntarily. Many have been forced into the sex game through threats and violence. The department says it's still very much focused on rescuing victims from that life. As for the street shutdowns, they'll continue for the foreseeable future.