THE Shamshuipo Fight Crime Committee, a community organisation covering one of the territory's most notorious red light districts, has called for steeper fines for vice. At a meeting last week, committee members questioned whether the fines meted out to convicted brothel keepers in the district had any deterrent value at all. A Shamshuipo police survey showed many of the fines issued by magistrates' courts from May to October this year were less than $10,000, with several as low as $3,000. In one case in May, a man convicted of running an unlicensed massage parlour was fined only $500 and bound over for six months. Committee chairman John Fan Kam-ping said prostitution was the most talked about issue in the district. He said the problem was no longer on the streets but also in massage parlours and 'bone setters' establishments, which claim to mend fractured limbs using traditional Chinese methods but which act as 'fronts' for illegal activities. 'We want to know why our serious fight against vice is not being met with a serious deterrent,' Mr Fan said. 'We want the period for which brothels are closed to be extended. We have asked for a government review and for the results to be passed on to the judiciary.' At last week's meeting, the Shamshuipo Fight Crime Committee met with the Attorney-General's representative, Leung Shee-kee, and vice-chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, James To Kun-sun, to raise the issue. Mr To said he had not been aware of the problem until he saw the Shamshuipo police figures. 'We need a more realistic deterrent if police action is to have any effect,' he said. Police figures put the number of vice operations in the district at 101 and their average profit at $40,000 a month. The maximum fine for running a brothel is $20,000 and a two-year prison sentence. District Operations Police Officer Chen Hoi-shan described the magistrate's sentences as 'quite discouraging'. 'They can easily afford to pay the fines,' he said. 'We will never get rid of the problem entirely, but our targets are not the prostitutes but the people who control them and traffic in them.' He also pointed out that measures enabling the closure of brothels were inadequate. Two separate convictions for running a brothel are needed within a period of two years before a closure order can be served.