Research. Prostitution; Hillfields, Coventry.

CRACKDOWN WON’T KEEP US OFF THE STREETS

Coventry Evening Telegraph

September 30, 2010
BYLINE: Sam Dimmer

A CRACKDOWN on sex workers in Hillfields has had little impact, according to the girls who work there.

They claim that prostitution has effectively been accepted by residents and police have little power to stop it from happening.

At the end of August police launched an operation to tackle the problem – sayiS ng that residents were fed up of living with sex workers on their doorstep.

But one working girl – who has spent 20 years working on the streets of Hillfields – believes that the police crackdown is making “S no difference at all” in Coventry’s red light district. “At first the girls sort of shied away,” Emma, 36, said. “But the last time I was down there I saw girls that haven’t been out for years.

“And I was there three days ago and there were six other girls working. I took notice of that because it makes it more difficult to pull.

“This crackdown hasn’t made a massive difference. I used to come out at 11pm because that’s when police used to disperse. Now because they’re there all the time I’ve been going out earlier.

“I still have to work – I still need money to live. So I don’t skirt around it any more.

“Really it’s about making money. I’m not sure really if there’s any solution to stop it. From our point of view we just want somewhere to work from where we can be safe.

“You’re never going to totally stop girls who want to work. We find that as long as you don’t harass people, and they aren’t waking up to find used condoms on the pavement, then the local community are prepared to accept it.”

Police have the power to caution working girls for soliciting, before charging them with an offence. But new rules mean that the usual punishment – a fine – is often replaced with an engagement and support order which tries to help prostitutes leave the sex industry. And the force say that the effects of the new legislation, and the change in the way they police Hillfields’ red light district, will not be instantly visible.

“It’s too early to assume that this isn’t working,” Sgt Caren Fletcher, from the St Michael’s police team said. “This not a short term crackdown – this is just part of our mainstream policing in Hillfields.

“This started in August and it is a long term operation.

Officers in that area have still seen a reduction in the girls already though.

“Some of the girls who have been cautioned haven’t been around again, so that shows that this strategy works.”

The Terence Higgins Trust offer a number of services to prostitutes working in the area on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And Lorraine Galatowicz, from the charity, said they were still “inundated” with women.

She said: “If there is high priority policing there is a period where the women are less visible. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have stopped working – just that they may be working in a different way.

“They may be working more off mobile phones and seeing more regular clients.

“From our perspective we are still very much inundated with the women. They know we are there and they continue to use our services.”

Sarah Walker, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, said that far from freeing women from prostitution the new laws were making it impossible for them to leave. “We have a woman who works with us, and she also volunteers at a respite home for disabled children,” she said. “She’s a wonderful person, and would love to work at the home full time as a paid employee.

“But because she has a conviction for soliciting she is too afraid to apply, because then everyone will know about her past.

“These laws trap women in prostitution. And police crackdowns also have a habit of forcing girls into other areas which they are less familiar with. It makes it so much more dangerous.”

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