Thursday, June 14, 2007

Escorts in Toronto turn on the Hookercam

Some escorts in Toronto are tightening their security measures, after two recent murders. Security is essential for every escort out there. They have had to resort to a system called Capture and Send.

Sex worker Shemale Dee was one of those who felt the need to act to protect herself and others. "I was a good friend of Cassandra's. We had known her for about 13 years and basically because of what has happened just recently, and having always been concerned with safety myself, I approached some software, security and systems people," she says. "I told them about the business we are in and how we do business and everything else, and wanted to do some brainstorming with them about the most ideal, easiest-to-use, easiest-to-implement system that would offer the biggest stick, the most amount of security."

What Dee and those computer people came up with is a system they call Capture and Send, which uses a camera that fits into the peephole on the door to an apartment to take a picture of clients before they come into the apartment and sends it to the owner's computer and to remote locations (friends' computers or a central image-vault service) as an encrypted file for storage. The files are stored off-site so that clients who may get out of line cannot just steal a computer to destroy the evidence; they're encrypted with a code so that only the sex worker and whomever she gives it to (a lawyer, a family member) can access the photographs. If nothing goes wrong, clients should have no serious concerns about the future of the image because it is, after all, just a picture of them standing in a hallway.

"So there's a lot of thought in the process. When I go to the door, let's say for example, buddy comes to the door and I want to let him in. I've sent the images to a dozen friends and on my door I have a little warning saying 'premises under surveillance.' So they know ahead of time what they're dealing with. And when I go to the door, I crack open the door -- I still have a steel bar that doesn't allow anyone to push their way past me -- so I'm still within my safe territory, and if they say 'Hey, I have a problem with the whole security issue,' then I say 'I'm sorry I can't do business with you.' And that's still from the safe side of the door. If I decide to let them in, and he decides to get a little testy and out of line, I'm able to tell him 'Hey, you've been warned at the door, and you can see that a security system is in effect and your picture has been sent to a dozen of my friends before you even came in here. So I suggest you leave' -- 99.9 per cent of the people in that situation would likely leave. I'm convinced that if Cassandra had had this system and she had said that to her attacker, he would have probably left."

Dee has been operating the system in her own home for a month, and says it's working well and that none of her clients has complained about it. She's marketing it to others in the business for $1,000.

Sardonicus, who used to work as a driver for escorts before setting up his website, is founding an organization called the Toronto Escort Alliance Marketing Service (TEAMS), which he says will provide several safety features for women in addition to helping them advertise their services, such as a business line that cannot be traced to the worker's home address and can be forwarded to their cell or home phone. One service he'll provide for no charge to any independent prostitute is something he calls "call safe": "They can call the hotline and provide the information of where they're going, how long they're going to be, when they plan to come out. We'll then call them out of that call -- which gives the impression they have someone watching out for them, and if we haven't heard from them by the appointed time we will follow up and exercise due diligence and bring in the authorities if need be. If we can't get a hold of that girl, we're calling the cops," he says.

Other safety measures that should be standard practice for prostitutes are being reinforced in the wake of the violence. Those working in incall agency apartments are advised never to work alone. (Lien Pham worked in such an apartment and under normal circumstances would have had a co-worker in the apartment with her. Her break with routine proved fatal.) Those working outcalls should always tell someone they trust the location and phone number of where they're going, who they're going to see and how long they expect to be there. All sex workers are advised to screen their clients, to be sure to get a working phone number and to verify that the number they've been given is listed to who the client says he is.

In addition, sex workers' organizations run by current and former prostitutes such as Maggie's and SWAT provide bad date lists and other safety information, and TERB provides an electronic bulletin board where workers can post messages and share information.

Quotes from Turn on the hookercam by Edward Keenan of Eye weekly.

None of Dee's clients have complained about this. If I were in her shoes, I would be wary of any clients who had a problem with it. I have CCTV at my incall location, and would not work without it.

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Any problems with cctv?

It depends where you put the cameras Nia!

B xx
I understand the ladies' concerns about security. I also understand the clients' concerns about privacy. In many instances, the concerns may not be reconcilable.

Both sides, of course, are operating from presumptions that they can be trusted, but perhaps not the other side. The ladies are thinking "as long as he doesn't pull anything, I would never disclose this picture to anyone . . . but I'm not sure he won't try to pull something, so I need the security." The clients are thinking "I would never do anything to harm or hurt her, and will be very well behaved . . . but I'm not sure she won't go psycho at some point and either out me or try to blackmail me." Mutual paranoia is a terrible thing.

This is, of course, just another version of the concerns we have in the States concerning sharing personal info (full name, employer, home address, etc.) for screening purposes. Not everyone is comfortable with that; not everyone will be comfortable with the systems you describe.

The conflict is a shame, because I think both sides of these debates have legitimate arguments.


Thank you for your comments. You know I would tell you where all the cameras are,lol.


Thank you for your comments. I agree the conflicts are a shame.

Ideally, I would like to trust every client that I see. It would make things so much easier for me. Sadly, security systems need to be in place. Some escorts have super tight security systems and some do not.

I understand your point of view as a client.

Unfortunately, when some escorts take chances, their lives are put at risk.

There has been an increase in rapes, murders and robberies in London lately.
I think it is important that a client knows there is cctv. There is a trust element from them as well. Those in the public eye have been badly affected by publicity about them visiting escorts. There is scope for blackmail from unscrupulous escorts and their agents.

However you are right that an escort needs to know she is as secure as possible and to have arrangements in place to try to ensure this. To that end it is also important for clients to know about the cctv so that it acts as a deterrent.

Some escorts have a receptionist which helps with security but is a far more expensive option. If the law in this country is changed soon, as has been recommended, so that it is legal for two escorts to work from the same premisses then that too can help security.

B xx
Alas, there is no perfect solution! :-(

The important thing is for BOTH sides to stick to their guns. The lady MUST maintain a level of security that will make her comfortable. The client MUST maintain a level of privacy that will make him comfortable.

Realistically, the lady is most at risk. Particularly because the ladies are in the "semi-public" eye, it's easier for the clients to gain a sense of comfort, that the lady is professional, trustworthy, and discreet. If I know enough about a lady, well, I won't worry as much that she has video of me or has my real name, employer, etc.

It's hard for the ladies to achieve the same level of comfort regarding the guys. And if they don't . . . shouldn't relax their security.

Wow..I keep wondering if this isn't the next version of the "Little Black Book" and what it would do to client's comfort level. I would be weirded out, personally, but I understand it's a difficult situation to weigh the pros and cons.

Thank you for your comments. It is a difficult one. I can see both sides of the argument. However, if any of my friends was murdered, these measures would be appropriate. Actually, if any of my friends was murdered I would stop working.
The problem with this sort of thing happeneing is that you can become over worried abut your own safety too, and get into the mode of thinking that every potential client is also a potential murderer.

Difficult one.

Thank you for your comments. It is a difficult one. I would rather be safe than sorry.
I have CCTV installed at my incall location, but would not go as far as to photograph my clients in such a way. I think it is an invasion of their privacy.

To be fair, this was a response to an escort's friend who was murdered. I can understand it fully. If I was in her shoes, I would stop working, as I said before.
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