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I was angry when I read this article from the Telegraph and Argus a Bradford newspaper. I was not angry with the reporter, by the commander of the police force. The commander shows a complete lack of understanding of street prostitution and the way it adapts. The policies are dangerous and will cause the death of more sexworkers by ensuring they are unable to report dangerous criminal psychopaths who prey on sex workers.
Quotes attributed to the Bradford police commander.
Bradford South Superintendent Angela Williams said: “In Bradford we do not have a tolerance zone for prostitution and our focus continues to be around reducing the harm associated with this behaviour.
The women involved are able to sign up to a wide range of specialist services to help them address these issues.
“Those who refuse to engage willingly with the specialist services available, are tackled by the Vice Team who utilise the laws available to their full extent to ensure their engagement.
“In the last month alone, our operations have seen 40 men arrested for kerb crawling offences in the city centre and we will continue to target those who purchase the services of women.”
You might take time to read the Bradford article and the recent articleby Esther Addley in the Guardian.
The effect of the Bradford police action will cause more street sex workers to be criminalised when the don’t cooperate with the police. The trust between the sex workers and the police will be completely destroyed, how can they now report problems to the police. A street worker can have contact with the police no more than four times a year without risk of arrest for “persistent” soliciting, which is defined as twice in three months. The outreach agencies will not be able to help these street workers when they become dispersed.
Cari Mitchell of the ECP agrees that rather than making women safer, the effect of the bill, in toughening the response to customers, has been to make sex workers less safe. “Crackdowns just drive women further underground,” she says. “Any sensible person will know that if you’re driven underground you’re going to be less safe.” The bill, she said, had been “a green light to violent men to attack women”.
“Violence is not that common, but when men know you are not going to report it, men try to get away with it. Men will try to rip women off to any level, and when you’re criminalised and working on the streets and people know you may be desperate, women will take risks.”
Bradford appears to be enforcing laws and procedures in total contradiction to more enlighted forces such as Liverpool. Liverpool had a very high instance of abuse against sex workers has seen a great success with its enlightened policies.
While creative approaches to policing prostitution, such as in Liverpool, can have striking results, the national response, according to Kinnell, is “patchy at best”. The Association of Chief Police Officers provides no guidance on interpretation of the prostitution laws, and a spokesman said it was up to individual chief constables to set the priorities for their forces. One officer working with sex workers who have been victims of rape acknowledged that the approach of vice officers and that of those attempting to support victims are often in tension.
The arrest of kerb crawlers will only disperse prostitution into many areas, sex work will move around the city as the police clamp down on the new areas. The article does not throw light on the view Bradford police take on indoor sex work, which is acknowledged to be safer for sex workers.
“Although there were changes in the law after Ipswich, they were certainly not in the direction of decriminalisation,” says Kinnell. “The police have more powers to close down properties [in which women are working], to arrest, to do practically anything, but the argument was they would only do it in the women’s interest. That is such an unrealistic expectation.”
The police use these new laws to close down properties because it is easy and is profitable. They are able to take the cash found on the premises and keep it and then go after the brothel operators for proceeds of crime. Whether the brothel is exploiting women, or providing women with a safe work place, the result is the same. They lose their work place. There is an incentive to the police to victimise women working in safe indoor environments, its profitable and an easy crime statistic to clear up.
Arresting kerb crawlers will not protect street workers from a psychopath like Stephen Griffiths. Stephen would have still been able to operate in that environment, (he lived in the area and did not have to kerb crawl), he was a psychopathic killer, not a punter. Allowing sex workers to operate indoors, or in monitored tolerance zones would have seen him arrested far more quickly, shortly after the first sex worker had gone missing. Enforcing the anti kerb crawling laws and solicitation laws removes the safety the sex worker has in vetting the client, and the security of being in a group of other sex workers. Enforcing these laws ensure no sex worker will talk to the police about their suspicions, cause the sex workers to operate individually and not give them time to vet the client.
It is time the Government reviewed the laws and removed the outdated laws concerning sex work. It would be a vote winner. This country is ready for a positive change to sex laws allowing sex workers to legally work in brothels. An economist poll showed 77% of respondants were in favour of accepting prostitution. An Ipsos Mori poll found, (the poll was phrased to elicit the most negative results) almost six in ten (59%) agree with the statement that “prostitution is a perfectly reasonable choice that women should be free to make”, while a quarter (27%) disagree.