Police have launched a series of operations in three prostitution hotspots, harnessing new anti-social behaviour legislation, following on-going complaints from residents about disruptive activity.
Along with targeting kerb-crawling, driving around looking to solicit sex, the legislation introduced last month enables officers to disperse anyone likely to commit crime or create disorder. Previously police could only intervene when a crime had occurred or was occurring and alcohol or drug-related.
Prostitutes violating the ASB laws are referred to the NHS-run Open Doors scheme, a confidential service offering advice and support to those within the sex industry.
Sergeant Richard Berns, Hackney’s lead officer for vice crimes, said: “There have always been complaints … but they’re usually not just because prostitutes are standing around”. Many of the complaints, instead, resulted from the anti-social behaviour surrounding prostitution, such as “residents being propositioned” and “shouting in the streets at 3am”.
One operation on October 23, prompted by complaints from Shacklewell Lane residents, led to the arrest of nine men for kerb-crawling, with two licensed taxi drivers among those arrested.
Shacklewell Lane is one of the three hubs for prostitution, with the others being two junctions between Lordship Park, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk and Queen’s Drive.
However U-Turn, a charity for vulnerable women, is unconvinced the police operations will be successful: “Enforcement is never the best action to take. For the last 15 years there have been many programmes set up to take prostitution off the streets. They haven’t worked.”
“This idea was carried out in Tower Hamlets a few years ago. Kerb-crawlers were given the option of attending training to show the abusive nature of prostitution. They had to pay to attend or they could choose to go to court, get their names in the newspaper and pay a fine. There was no change in the number of women on the streets and there won’t be this time.”
ELL spoke to businesses working in the three hotspot-areas about local levels of prostitution, but did not find any of those who have complained.
An employee from the Rose and Crown, a pub on Queens Elizabeth’s Walk, said: “I finish quite late a lot of nights and I walk home then, but I haven’t seen a prostitute in the last 3 years”.