PORTLAND — The arrest of two men on charges of engaging a prostitute in the Parkside neighborhood followed complaints from residents about activity in the area around Congress and Weymouth streets, police said Monday.

“It’s a problem that’s been getting worse at that particular intersection for the last year or so,” said Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch.

Police charged Michael Kusnirak, 55, of Scarborough and Orlando Perez, 44, of Portland with engaging a prostitute. Perez also was charged with cocaine possession, trafficking in prison contraband, and failure to comply with the state’s sex-offender registry.

Perez legally changed his name from Orlando Deperez. He was convicted of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to police. He failed to register with Portland police after moving here from Lewiston.

Malloch said one group of prostitutes works in that part of Parkside and has a steady clientele. The prostitutes are familiar with the area and can duck into a doorway when they see police approaching, he said.

On Friday, police conducted a sting in which a female officer posed as a prostitute.
The Parkside Neighborhood Association has been urging police to crack down on prostitution and release the names of the men charged with soliciting sex, reasoning that shame might deter them and others.

“The problem has resulted in a negative impact on the quality of life and increased fear throughout this densely populated and diverse community,” said a press release from the city.

“There’s a lot of street-level prostitution going on, more than we’ve seen in recent years,” Malloch said.

He said police have conducted a couple of stings over the past year but have not issued press releases about who was arrested. Residents and prosecutors asked police to publicize the latest arrests, Malloch said.

“This really only has value in deterring someone if you do it in the media,” he said.

Malloch said the concern in Parkside isn’t strictly about the illegal activity — and the drugs and violence that often accompany it. Sometimes, women who are just walking through the neighborhood get propositioned by men, he said.

The prostitutes remain in that area because that’s where their customers expect to find them, he said.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com