Prostitution has plunged in Doncaster after police drafted in new powers to crackdown on the problem.
Following a huge spike in the town’s sex trade in 2013, police have been working in tandem with Doncaster Council and charity Changing Lives, as part of an initiative called Project Amber to help reduce the number of people involved with prostitution across the borough.
As a result of new laws called Section 30 legislation being implemented in the Town Moor and Wheatley areas last year, the number of reported instances of soliciting and kerb crawling offences fell from 153 between August and December 2013, to 109 during the same period last year. South Yorkshire police have also been granted greater and easier to implement powers around prostitution related anti-social behaviour through a new Section 35 order.
Sergeant Carl Lindley, of the force’s Doncaster safer neighbourhood team, believes the new order will help cut the number of people involved in the sex trade in Doncaster even further.
He said: “This is very positive. Anybody from an inspector up will be able to grant a Section 35 order and we will be able to disperse individuals, which should make a big difference. What we want to do is to prevent people in the sex trade from being at risk before it happens, and to signpost them towards necessary services.” to get them out of that situation when it does happen.”
The Section 30 order meant officers were allowed to ban people in a group of two or more for antisocial behaviour for up to 24 hours in the Town Moor and Wheatley areas.
Under the new order, police will be able to remove individuals committing the same act from any area of Doncaster for up to 48 hours.
Sgt Lindley says the strategy for reducing sex work does not seek to ‘punish sex workers’, but instead aims to help reduce the reasons for people falling into that line of work, and the risks associated with it.
He said: “It’s about trying to help people who fall into it and to take away their reasons for being there.
“The great work we’ve been able to do with other agencies within the Amber project as well as the orders have definitely helped reduce the number of instances in Doncaster.” In 2012, a total of 85 incidents of prostitution were reported in Doncaster, while in 2013 that number rose to 465. Last year, the total number fell to 230.
Changing Lives, which operates from the Women’s Centre on Cleveland Street, provides support services to sex workers, as part of the council-funded Amber Project.
A dedicated team patrol the streets around Thorne Road, where police receive the most reports of solicitation in Doncaster, every Friday night when they provide support to dozens of vulnerable women who have turned to prostitution.
Work includes dishing out sandwiches and hot chocolate, giving out condoms and rape alarms and arranging appointments for services such as counselling.
Paula Jackson Key, of Changing Lives, said: “The women trust us now and will come and engage with us, which is so positive.
“People can make snap judgments, but I don’t think people understand how hard it is for these girls. Some are too afraid to leave the house during the day because they feel like everyone knows who they are and what they do.
“It’s about acknowledging this is long-term work, which needs the right support package to help move the girls away from sex work for good.”