Topeka Topeka police have begun a program designed to give prostitutes the help they may need to get off the streets.
Part of the program involves giving the women "bags of hope," clutch handbags full of hygiene products and information on such things as how to fight addictions or learn job skills.
Police also plan to ensure that women who carry no identification get some form of ID.
"You really can't get anywhere in America today legitimately without some form of identification," Police Chief Ron Miller said.
He told the Topeka City Council on Tuesday that the program is similar to one called Project Butterfly in Wichita. It is also part of a new focus in the Topeka department to work with neighborhood groups, business associations and other organizations to develop strategies to combat specific crime problems.
"These ladies do not aspire to this as their chosen profession," Miller said. "They do this because they have to. And if we can provide them another opportunity, then they get to make a choice."
Two Wichita police officers involved with that city's program attended the Topeka City Council meeting. They said Project Butterfly is a partnership between police and the YWCA of Wichita to help prostitutes change their lives.
Wichita police officer Dwain Diehl said 21 prostitutes have sought help since the voluntary program started in September.
Miller said police will continue to arrest prostitutes but will also at times make contact that doesn't involve an arrest.
The "bags of hope" will contain soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products and products to help improve the women's appearance.
"We will be surprised at the number of people positively affected by a small bag that has things we take for granted every day that they don't take for granted ever," Miller said.
City Councilwomen Lana Kennedy and Sylvia Ortiz both thanked the chief for starting the program.
"We will move this forward and see where it takes us," Kennedy said.