Does Dayton need a “Combat zone”?

I first heard this idea from John Gower, who is now the director of planning. I thought it had merit then, and am thinking it has more merit now.

Zone an area that is extremely depressed as the X-rated area. Allow porn stores, strip clubs, all night bars, seedy motels that rent by the hour, to have a place to themselves. Charge high taxes, provide high police visibility, but don’t arrest the hookers, just the drunks and fighters.

Have a hooker rehab center and drug rehab programs in the area- supported by the higher taxes.

This way, the negative impact of these activities is limited to the designated area. Hookers caught plying their trade elsewhere- picked up and dropped off in the Combat Zone. Pimps who want to beat up girls – arrested, since the area will be well patrolled.

Boston had an area called the “combat zone” for years, and I saw the same kind of thing in Hamburg and Paris. There is no reason it couldn’t work here.

What brought this idea back to mind was a motorcycle ride last Friday night with a couple of buddies- I brought them back in down W. Third Street. Both buddies, Vietnam era Army Rangers, thought I was trying to give them flashbacks. Face it, there isn’t enough money available to bring back parts of W. Third Street- so maybe the answer is to let the wages of sin give it a shot. Moving the sex shops out of the Oregon District, N. Dixie, etc. might help give other areas a better chance- and also give some people in Dayton a reason to go over to the West Side.

Sounds harsh- but, the reality is, maybe this is one of the conversations we should be having?


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27 Comments on "Does Dayton need a “Combat zone”?"

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Wow, what a great idea. Can you make this happen by the time I’m old enough to drive?
I’ll give you my XBox AND my Playstation 3.



I actually think it is ok – but to move existing businesses by force (sex shops from point A to B) would be an act of God – people feel comfortable going to OD or Dixie, not west third. I don’t like higher taxes for this however. Your not endorsing this behavior but would like to tax it ???? I don’t really understand that, kind of spineless. People who would be for this need to understand they can not directly benefit from a tax increase, even for bullshit rehab. Designating a blighted area for otherwise strange behavior that is not endorsed by the average Joe, and then taxing it to excess is trying to have it both ways. These ARE businesses, and by your logic we should Zone Tech Town with Higher Taxes because the folks who may work there will walk to work, therefore by-passing gas tax and sales tax on candy bars. Keep it simple – AND FAIR.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Hmmm, Gene- then explain why the Downtown Dayton Partnership is funded with a supplemental tax.


It should not be – DDP is a waste of time, money, energy, etc………


Humm… Maybe we could define the area with red streetlights, allow has cafes, and call it…. AmsterDayton!!!


(hash cafes, that is)

Phillip Ranly

There’s gotta be a few neighbors around 3rd St. who wouldn’t be too happy to have that near them. I’d hate to eternally condemn a neighborhood on purpose. But then again it’s saving the rest of them (to some extent). Hmmm, this is a hard one. If you could build a 15 foot wall around this Combat Zone you may have something.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Phillip- there aren’t that many neighbors around on W. Third street right now-
it’s pretty dismal in parts.

We have an abundance of vacant homes in the city- relocation shouldn’t be a problem. Then again- there are people who will want to live near here. Might also be a great place for sex offenders to live- since the new law makes it almost impossible for them to find a place that is more than x feet from school, church etc.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter
Well of course I am in favor as this is one of the things that will drive a creative community. The decriminalization/non enforcement of crimes against your own person should be legal with of course some caveats. So I will propose the caveats – 1 Only drugs derived from natural/organic substances will be tolerated. a) Cocaine is in – Meth is out. 2 No injectable drugs unless the tax money derived from this area is used to approve the quality and consistency of the product. The lack of consistency in the injectable class is one of the reasons for accidental overdose deaths. 3 No open air activities – Drug use/outdoor sex is not acceptable, but casual marketing of the product in question is tolerated. 4 The purveyor of the establishment may not provide/sell the drug in question unless it is grown on the premises in an organic or rooftop garden. 5 The providers of the sexual services must be registered with Health Department and undergo periodic testing. 6 The sexual providers may be sponsored or receive monies directly from condom suppliers. 7 Police may not arrest or incarcerate any person with district approved drugs while on a bus route provided the materials are not in open display and no transactions occur on the bus. One thousand gram maximum per person is the tolerated amount. 8 Card gaming will be tolerated based on tournament style rules with one tournament in each monetary category held on a daily basis. The buy in categories will be from 25-200 dollars in increments of 25 dollars resulting in 8 maximum tournaments a day with 10% of the take going to the City and none for the House. The house will have to make money on booze, food and accessories. 9 Addicts that cannot handle their drugs will be barred from all of the establishments by mutual consent outlined in the tax charter. 10 No pan handling. 11 RTA would encourage park and ride programs. 12 Location would be on an electric trolley line. Enforcement by police would be limited to public intoxication, theft, assault and… Read more »

Not a bad idea. Ain’t gonna happen though.

I have actually discussed this concept over the last few years with several people. I referred to it as a “Sin zone” and not a combat zone. We have to face the fact that the war on drugs isn’t being won and prostitution will never go away. If there was an area where it would be tolerated or should we say “ignored” then it would pull alot of it out of our residential neighborhoods and concentrate much of the petty crime to one district. An industrial park would be ideal. If marajuana is tolerated then it may reduce the number of meth and crack addicted people in the area who cause much of the petty crime. People on pot are less likely to cause burglary crimes unless it is for food! Petty crime is what drives people from the city. Insurance covers the big stuff but forking out two or three deductibles a year for broken car windows makes a statement when quality of life issues are addressed. I have also thought that it might be feasable to set up a trailer park near an abandoned industrial zone where the courts could send people who have been nuisance abated. They would be sent there as part of their community control sentence and would have to pay rent to the courts or to the city and failure to do so would result in completion of a jail sentence. The damage control to property would be limited to the value of a trailer home which they are contributing to through “rent” instead of thousands of dollars to property owners for destruction of property, stealing furnaces and copper. It would eliminate the moving around the neighborhood by some repeatedly destructive families. It would also prevent 5 responsible families from leaving as a result of one irresponsible family. If we can’t eliminate the crime we can isolate it. We could always issue a “Get out of Montgomery County FREE” card. Of course these ideas don’t fall within the parameters of political correctness but I think the time for being politically correct in this city… Read more »

Geez Dave, if you and your interlocutors would bother to visit Urban Ohio (yes it has become a big CIncy/Clevo circle jerk…which is one reason I am blogging now), you have seen me post on this very subject back at the end of June:

The Dayton Sex District, Aspiring to be the (Adult) Playground of SW Ohio:

David Esrati
David Esrati

See Jeff, great minds think alike- although I didn’t think of it downtown-
but, why the hell not?

D. Greene

David – how many people actually vote in any given municipal election, anyways? It can’t be that hard to take over the primaries or selection process, can it?

David Esrati
David Esrati

D. Greene-
Enough people vote that it makes it difficult. I’ve tried 4 times.


David, thanks, but it was a really Drexel Dave post here at your blog that got me thinking, which kicked off that little riff over at UO.

I was thinking of that part of downtown as there already is some action going on there, and putting stuff like this in a residential neighborhood would never do. Remember that pressure to remove that seedy porn theatre over at Tals Corner area on E 3rd? That was a pretty run down area, but the neighbors there cared enough to pressure the city to close. One would expect the same opposition on the West Side.

It wouldnt take too much more in that Fire Blocks area to really kick off a small entertaintment district. Paul Woody told me last week that he was talking to Rhine McLin about maybe some banners marking the area as “special”, and had also talked to the proprietor of Q Gift Shop up in Santa Clara about relocating to that E 3rd “Merchants Row” area, but Q is getting a good deal on rent & isn’t interested in moving.

Drexel Dave
Where to even begin. First off, which part of West Third Street? West Third Street is MILES long, and stretches from the river all the way out through drexel, where it becomes US 35 around Infirmary Road. That is one gigantic red light district you are talking about. Second. If you think that the residents around the West Third area, which is still very populated, especially around the streets running off of the Westwood area (Gramont, etc…) are going to accept this, you are living in a dream world. That area is heavily populated by a lot of old-school, Baptist church attending folks. Already, the west side gets to live near and smell all of the trash dumps and sewage, railroads all over, and seemingly everyone who is looking to get into the poison gas disposal business wants to locate there. Locating a sin district on West Third Street would rightly outrage lots of people. Additionally, there is a huge class-battle going on in the black community between the more affluent and generally educated African-American class, and those who would be afflicted with the so-called ghetto mentality built largely through the implementation of a industrial prison complex made to work by the War on Some Drugs – saggin’ pants, a “fuck you” mentality, basking in the glorified culture of a prison society. Good idea, but plagued by poor thinking from the get-go on the location. I would think a much better place for something like this would be the area just south of downtown, near the Washington Street Bridge just west of Chaminade-Julienne. That war memorial park that runs along the river is already rife with constant prostitution. I’ve witnessed all kinds guys parked in cars getting blow jobs while riding my bike through there. There would be easy access from downtown hotels, and can you imagine the convention business in Dayton once something like this is established – through the roof! Or another good spot might by out off of Springfield Street, where the dilapidated East Dayton industrial district is. If you could make a good case that this… Read more »
Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter

Great Post Drexel Dave and maybe I am missing something but instead of making a big deal out of the whole area thing, why not just do it with a wink and a nod from the City Officials. It would start with a business tolerating the smoking of marijuana on their smoking porch, while not making it blatant as the business could/should mask the smell using incense. The Police in that area would not enforce any Marijuana laws after say 4:20 pm and lasting until the morning shift. If one travels to Amsterdam, Vancouver or say New Orleans, one might be able to see how this type of atmosphere is accepted. I think setting up a separate zone is not in the best interest of the existing businesses in Dayton. The logical place to start this kind of tolerance in the law would be in the Oregon District, say the Oregon Express, Trolley Stop or some such establishment. Beat the Greene with Green.

Greg Hunter from New Orleans.

David Esrati
David Esrati

The idea of W. Third Street came from John Gower- many years ago. It could be W. Fifth- it could be Downtown- it really doesn’t matter where. No matter what there will be NIMBY’s screaming.
The theater at TALS was run off by Mike Turner- as part of his holier than thou persona.
I put things out here to make you think- and to gain knowledge and insight- thank you all for your contributions- and- maybe this is something that can gain some traction- since Sportsplex doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.


thats not how I remember it about TALS Corner. I recall the neighborhood people were fed up with the goings-on, and spoke at city commision meetings opposing it. And they were right too, if you knew what went on there. Turner did the right thing if he sided with the neighbors.

David Esrati
David Esrati

It was a witch hunt. And, if we didn’t force the proprietors into a constant battle with the city- maybe we could have had more cooperation and better control.

Rick R

Thanks for the great comment Drexel Dave. I actually read Es’ post when it went up last Thursday but delayed commenting till now.

So Es, thanks for the innovative ideas for bringing business to our neighborhood but no thanks. It occurs to me that some people are determined to erase the east side of Wayne Avenue between Wyoming and Keowee, that the Kroger proposition is 50/50 at best sometimes, so this combat zone sounds like an excellent backup plan for that area. No doubt selling drugs and coochie has to be more profitable than selling bagged potatoes and canned beans, it shouldn’t be too dificult to find investors willing to build. It could also make economic sense because only a portion of the current residents would need to be relocated, others could be placed in temporary housing and returned as soon as construction is complete. Thanks again for your concern for our community though.


David Esrati
David Esrati

The funny thing is- when “coochie” has a legal place to be done- you don’t see it out on the streets- when Cocaine can be sold like beer and cigs- you don’t see people getting shot over it.
Do you have a better idea for cleaning up W. Third? Even with the millions poured into Wright Dunbar- the business district isn’t exactly working. With more candlepower than the sun- Wright Dunbar on W. Third still looks deserted.
This was an “idea”- not a plan- something to discuss- (it’s something that we haven’t seemed to master in Dayton- ideas can only be presented once fully formed and decided upon by people in “power” in the back room- and backed by a herd of people).
Thanks for commenting though- and welcome.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter
Rick, pull your head out, the neighborhoods of Dayton have slowly lost residents and value do to the large scale investment in the suburbs. The rise of American house prices has allowed suburbanites to use their house to invest and in some cases waste a great deal of money. This same phenomena is not true for most of those that have invested in the City of Dayton real estate market. The people of the suburbs do not want to see crime, color or people that are not exactly like them. The suburbs want a homogeneous society, but life is not homogeneous, it is heterogeneous and people crave the diversity. One of the reasons young people leave this area is that they crave the character of different people. The Dayton suburban community cannot deal with people that might not fit their idea of what people should do or look like. This fracturing of society has a cost, as we separate classes of people. The people that work in the low end service jobs have to live further from the places where they serve the suburbanites. The low end work force is inexorably drawn to the areas where the work is and the cycle of encroachment and flight begins again. Witness the horror of the Oakwood community as the Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority has purchased apartments on Hadley Ave in Jokewood. The point is that the poor, addicted and those that teeter between both worlds are going to be with us, no matter where one is reared. The ability to have compassion for the foibles of the human condition is what defines us as human beings and not bacteria. Look around, there is no avoiding the human condition, why cannot we accept peoples differences and learn to live and let live. I have been to other cities and countries where this type of behavior is prevalent and thriving is possible. Put people in jail for crimes against others and not against themselves. The American populace is just beginning to pay the price for sprawling out away from those others and since we… Read more »

The fact is that these “poor” folk in Oakwood will get arrested for spitting on the ground, listening to loud music and throwing cigarette butts out of their cars – at that point they will have wished they stayed in Dayton.

Citizens of Oakwood are overreacting, and therefore the police will follow suit. Then we are back at square one, putting people in jail for little stuff. Once they have a record, it just spirals down.

Drexel Dave
The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal Editor’s note: There are millions of regular pot smokers in America and millions more infrequent smokers. Smoking pot clearly has far fewer dangerous and hazardous effects on society than legal drugs such as alcohol. Here is High Times’s top 10 reasons to marijuana should be legal, part of its 420 Campaign legalization strategy. 10. Prohibition has failed to control the use and domestic production of marijuana. The government has tried to use criminal penalties to prevent marijuana use for over 75 years and yet: marijuana is now used by over 25 million people annually, cannabis is currently the largest cash crop in the United States, and marijuana is grown all over the planet. Claims that marijuana prohibition is a successful policy are ludicrous and unsupported by the facts, and the idea that marijuana will soon be eliminated from America and the rest of the world is a ridiculous fantasy. 9. Arrests for marijuana possession disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics and reinforce the perception that law enforcement is biased and prejudiced against minorities. African-Americans account for approximately 13% of the population of the United States and about 13.5% of annual marijuana users, however, blacks also account for 26% of all marijuana arrests. Recent studies have demonstrated that blacks and Hispanics account for the majority of marijuana possession arrests in New York City, primarily for smoking marijuana in public view. Law enforcement has failed to demonstrate that marijuana laws can be enforced fairly without regard to race; far too often minorities are arrested for marijuana use while white/non-Hispanic Americans face a much lower risk of arrest. 8. A regulated, legal market in marijuana would reduce marijuana sales and use among teenagers, as well as reduce their exposure to other drugs in the illegal market. The illegality of marijuana makes it more valuable than if it were legal, providing opportunities for teenagers to make easy money selling it to their friends. If the excessive profits for marijuana sales were ended through legalization there would be less incentive for teens to sell it to one another.… Read more »