Many of the 85,000 residents in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria panicked when they learned that BC Books, a major pornographic outlet, planned to open a "superstore" within 1,000 feet of three churches, a retirement community, a new residential subdivision, and a daycare center. Activities in and around the chain's eight other Phoenix stores prompted more than 7,800 calls to police in 1997, to investigate illegal drug use, assault, indecent exposure, rape, and even two murders. Peoria city officials and a coalition of citizens turned to the National Family Legal Foundation (NFLF) for help.

"We didn't know what to do, where to go, what our legal rights were," recalls Kimberly Myers, spokesperson for Peoria Citizens' Committee on Adult Uses. "NFLF came in and gave us the tools to make a difference."

Annual revenues of the porn industry are pegged at $8 billion—more than Hollywood's legitimate box-office receipts. Outspent and outmaneuvered in courts and in legislatures by wealthy pornographers, NFLF shifted its tactics away from fighting printed obscene materials on the national level to regulating sexually oriented businesses on the local level. The strategy of targeting city peddlers of the materials rather than its producers has proven successful.

"Our focus is not on the moral decay in America," says Scott Bergthold, executive director of NFLF, "but rather the tangible effects of the moral decay which local governments are quick to recognize—an increase in crimes, lower property values leading to lower tax revenues, and health and safety issues like the spread of aids and other sexually transmitted diseases." The plan works, in part, because local residents have something at stake. "It's hard to mobilize people at ...

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