A massive 60 per cent increase in Doncaster’s vice trade is forcing police and council officers to look at new ways of tackling the problem.
A bus could be converted into a mobile surgery to help sex workers withdraw from the town’s red-light district and kerb crawlers are being ‘re-educated’.
The vehicle has been suggested by council officers as part of the strategy to deal with a 61 per cent increase in reports of prostitution in April-December 2013 compared to the same period in the previous year.
Councillors believe the problem is worse since the closure of the Streetreach project, which was based on Copley Road and had a team of workers who tried to steer vice girls away from touting for business on the streets .
A programme to re-educate kerb crawlers has also been introduced to drive ‘customers’ away from the Town Field and Wheatley area, which have been plagued by prostitutes for decades.
Coun Patricia Schofield, chair of the council’s adults and communities overview panel which met yesterday, asked officers what was responsible for the increase.
Supt Peter Norman said police were encouraging people to report the problem and it was being reduced this year ‘dramatically’.
Bill Hotchkiss, the council’s head of community safety, added: “We have done a lot of diversionary activities with kerb crawlers. Instead of going to court they can attend an awareness course to address their behaviour and why they drive round the streets late at night.
“If we remove the kerb crawlers people will not stand on street corners looking for business.”
Mr Hotchkiss believes the economic situation is also increasing the amount of sex trade.
“People are finding it tougher to find the rent and are building up debts, the question is how we can exit them from this lifestyle.”
Coun Yvonne Woodcock said Streetreach, which closed due to loss of funding, did ‘a marvellous job’ and Mr Hotchkiss said Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton and Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright had attended a meeting on the issue.
He said: “The question we discussed was do we need another Streetreach or a more mobile service, possibly running a bus into this community late at night offering similar facilities as Streetreach.”
The police confirmed the majority of Doncaster’s prostitutes are local and the question of setting up legalised prostitution zones was a matter for politicians and lawmakers.
The meeting was also told reports of sexual abuse in Doncaster had gone up by 128 per cent over the same period – almost 320 extra cases – which police have put down to the ‘Jimmy Savile’ effect.
Chf Supt Richard Tweed, Doncaster police commander, said: “It’s taken something as high profile as the Savile case to give confidence to victims to report these matters.
“We do not see a substantial increase in stranger rape, a lot of it is around self awareness and having courage to report it to the police because they know they will be treated with respect and dignity.”
He said 60 per cent of Doncaster rape offenders are known to their victim.