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Neighbors send a different kind of Dear John letter

By JACKIE KING

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Several Des Moines neighbors fed up with prostitutes working the streets in front of their homes have started taking down license plate numbers and sending out their own version of a 'Dear John' letter.

The letters, sent to the registered owners of cars which residents see dropping off or picking up known prostitutes, note that the car has been seen in the neighborhood, apparently engaged in an illegal activity.

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'We have had some interesting phone calls since we began,' said Neva Jorgensen, an instigator of the letter writing campaign. 'There were some men who called to find out if their number was on the list and to find out what they could possibly do to get their name off the list so they would not get a letter.'

Jorgensen said her neighborhood organization is only one of several that have adopted the tactic and the groups are becoming quite sophisticated in their approach.

'We keep a computerized list and check for duplicates,' she said.

Jorgenson said neighbors began sending the letters during the first part of October but she is not sure how many of the missives have been sent.

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'I've sent 20 out myself,' she said. 'I just said to the neighbors, 'we've got to do something'. It wasn't that I had to go out and really twist arms to get people to do this,'

Residents checked with members the Des Moines Police Department's vice unit before beginning the project. Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Van Baale said the unit had no problems with the idea.

Jorgensen said the group has other future plans to combat prostitution in the area.

'We are trying very, very hard to get the men's names published in the paper who are arrested for prostitution, just like the bankruptcies and marriage licenses,' she said. 'I don't want to tip our hand but we have some other ideas, too.'

Jorgensen said activity on her street has declined slightly since the effort began, but she said some of the decrease may be due to colder weather.

'Of course the problem goes underground a little bit in the winter,' she said, 'but you would be surprised at the number of women who stay out there in the cold weather. We want to close the candy store come spring.'

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