Blackpool’s sex trade: Balancing act for officers

Assistant Chief 'Constable Simon Byrne
Assistant Chief 'Constable Simon Byrne
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POLICE in Blackpool say they face a difficult task helping and supporting working girls – at the same time minimising prostitutes’ impact on communities.

But it is a task which one chief officer believes they do well.

Det Chief Insp Sue Cawley said: “I don’t believe Blackpool has a significant problem with prostitution although I’m not minimising it for the people who live where it is an issue.

“I understand the frustration of businesses as having prostitutes hanging around can affect their trade.

“They shouldn’t have to suffer.”

Det Chief Insp Cawley said Blackpool’s management of the problem was “well thought of nationally” and the police’s ultimate aim was “to stop the women from doing it”.

She added: “If what they’re doing constitutes an offence, then of course we take action.

“On the streets, our guidance is women have to be soliciting “persistently” for us to intervene.

“It would also depend if the individual is known to us and has previous convictions.

“(As for massage parlours) we visit premises regularly.

“We support anybody connected with it who is vulnerable.”

Det Chief Insp Cawley said if they used pure enforcement “the fear is, it would displace the problem and make the situation a lot more dangerous for the women themselves.”

She added: “It’s easier to support women if they are working in the parlours rather than on the streets.

“They are certainly more vulnerable to harm there and more likely to be causing a nuisance in the local community.

“Our strategy is to deal with the issue in a priority fashion in terms of risk and threat. We work hard to try and get them to engage with drug services to try and get them off the streets.

“If the public has a problem in a certain area, we want to know about it.”

Another priority is to ensure no underage women are being exploited or women trafficked in.

The Blackpool approach mirrors new guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) .

In his report, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne writes how lessons had been learned nationally following a number of high profile murders of prostitutes in the last five years.

In 2006, the country was stunned by the Ipswich murders where five female sex workers were brutally killed.

More recently there was the murder of three prostitutes from Bradford in 2010.

ACC Byrne says: “The danger and vulnerability sex workers face on a daily basis has come to the forefront of many minds on a number of occasions.”

The strategy focuses on getting support for sex workers instead of just relying on enforcing the law to ensure the situation is managed.

One of the key messages is enforcement alone is an inadequate solution.

It also dismisses the myth prostitution is a “victimless crime” saying “prostitution is victim-centred, not victimless”.

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