Sex clampdown sees reduction in Doncaster prostitution problems

A prostitute at work
A prostitute at work

A clampdown on prostitution in Doncaster has seen problems in the town’s red light district reduced by a quarter.

Doncaster Council and partners are working together with communities to tackle issues in the Town Moor and Wheatley area.

Residents had raised some concerns about the presence of sex workers in the area and the consequences.

Working together, the Council, Police, the community and other partners such as the voluntary sector service Changing Lives have driven down the problem – seeing activity dropping by 25 per cent already.

Councillor Pat Knight, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health said: “Doncaster Council is working with partners to tackle this complex issue, which has affected communities across the country for decades. We don’t have a huge problem in Doncaster, but we did have some concerns in this area of the town so that is why we are focussing our efforts.

“We believe that these issues are complex and that more than one approach is needed to successfully tackle the issue. That is why, together with our partners, we are offering people support to change their lives as well as, if that fails, taking further legal action. Importantly, we are tackling those that use these services and not just those that are offering them.

“Work to improve street lighting and CCTV has been completed to discourage criminal and anti-social behaviour and outreach work is on-going with the aim of helping people to change course.”

In order to respond to residents’ concerns the Council has commissioned Changing Lives (formerly Platform 51) to provide outreach work to support the sex workers.

A spokesman from Changing Lives said: “We work to make a real difference through effective, pioneering and innovative services. We are committed to respecting and empowering people.

“We will work with the women who are given Engagement and Support Orders to help address the many underlying causes of their engagement in sex work and provide them with the support they need to access services to make a difference in their lives.”

The Council and partners work in the Town Moor and Wheatley area has also included:

• An increase in the frequency of the street cleansing schedules to respond to complaints of littering.

• The removal of branches on the trees on Town Field to improve the effectiveness of the street lighting to discourage anti-social behaviour and crime.

• Increased CCTV in the area.

• Additional Safer Neighbourhood Team patrols, providing a visible presence as a deterrent but also, and importantly, to provide reassurance to residents.

Sgt Carl Lindley said: “South Yorkshire Police is working closely with a number of support services to deliver an effective partnership strategy aimed at tackling prostitution-related issues. The Force’s primary role in this strategy is to identify and manage vulnerability through a range of proactive measures, including proactive enforcement activities.

“These activities target kerb-crawlers, and generate referrals to the ‘Change Programme’. This is an independent scheme adopted by several other Police Forces nationally, which boasts a reoffending rate for those offenders referred into the scheme of less than 2%. The method is designed to reduce overall demand for sex-work. Several courses have been run to date, which have already generated £1,000 in available community funding.

“Other activities include those in relation to sex-workers. These generate referrals for Engagement and Support Orders via the Magistrates Courts, with a view to diverting individuals away from the lifestyle and reducing the overall supply of sex-work. Persistent sex-workers ultimately risk receiving an ASBO upon conviction.”

Tracey Cheetham, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, who leads on women’s issues on behalf of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Both the Commissioner and I are working very hard with partners, community workers and voluntary agencies to engage with the women and find out why they are turning to the streets in the first place.

“Some of the women have complex needs and are feeding an addiction; for some, life events can mean they find themselves without the means to pay for food and clothing. Times are very hard out there and although we appreciate that not everyone will turn to prostitution as a way to make ends meet, sometimes these women can simply see no alternative.

“There are some fantastic organisations that have been funded by the Commissioner in both Doncaster and throughout South Yorkshire working with the women to provide educational training, support and advice to guide them away from the streets and into a more conventional line of work.

“We must remember that the men who create the demand for prostitution also need educating and there are measures in place, such as the Change Programme, to help them to understand the impact their behaviour has and deter them from kerb-crawling. Residents in affected areas need to see that action is being taken to help improve their neighbourhoods and make them the pleasant environments they wish to live in.

“The Commissioner is frequently receiving positive updates and works hard with South Yorkshire Police and Doncaster Council. We all appreciate that whilst we are seeing good results, through outreach and support work, this is a long journey and there is still more to be done.”