'We need to act together urgently' - authorities pledge to end street sex trade in Ipswich
- Credit: Suffolk Constabulary
Authorities have pledged to work together to end the "scourge" of street prostitution in Ipswich - and deter violence against women in the town.
Councils and police restated their commitment to the closest possible working following news that a "small number" of sex workers are on the streets of Ipswich, 15 years after the Steve Wright murders.
Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk Constabulary, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk and Suffolk County Council share the aim of removing street prostitution completely from Ipswich.
They are also working together to deter acts of violence against women and say work will be stepped up to help women exit from street prostitution, and deter men from propositioning women on the street.
Initiatives include support from the town's new police "Kestrel" Team, providing highly visible policing.
Alasdair Ross, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for community protection, said: “Joint working is what is needed to get rid of street prostitution in Ipswich. That's how we dealt with this scourge after the terrible events 15 years ago.
"We need to work across all these partners, and that also includes the NHS and the voluntary sector, with joint plans, targets and timetables.
"That did not just work well in Ipswich but it’s how the social problem has been tackled well in other places. Street prostitution is inherently dangerous for the women working and we need to act together urgently to end this as soon as possible.“
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Supt Jane Topping said: ‘Suffolk Constabulary have worked with support services, and the majority of the women engaged in street sex work have been supported and are no longer on the streets.
"Police are conducting enforcement activity in the area aimed at those who have not taken the support offered and the males who attend the area and use sex workers.’
Support for police in the area is coming from the new Neighbourhood Crime Proactive or "Kestrel" Team, based at Landmark House, covering the wider Ipswich area.
One of three similar teams across Suffolk, it is a "highly visible and uniformed team", and can be deployed in a particular area to target crime and engage with communities.
Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, said: “Our grant awards will continue to support several voluntary sector organisations that work in this area.
"And I know there will be extra visible policing in this area involving the new Kestrel Team who specialise in tackling neighbourhood crimes such as drug supply, violence and anti-social behaviour."
Mr Passmore added: “Ultimately it is the power of collaboration across all agencies that will bring success in tackling the underlying social and economic difficulties and we will do everything possible to prevent these crimes, keep everyone safe and support the victims.”
As part of the work to help the area, money from the government's Safer Streets Fund will help bring safety improvements in the area around the town end of Norwich Road, including London Road, the former red light district.
Funding of £124,000 will be used to improve CCTV coverage, as well as as improving general household and business security and crime prevention.
Alasdair Ross has also said the Home Office funding will in future enable Ipswich Borough Council to make personal alarms available to women in the area.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public health, Public Protection and Communities, said: "All agencies in Suffolk, through the Safer Stronger Communities Board, are united in their approach to tackling violence against women and girls."
He said the agencies were currently refreshing the countywide strategy, which includes a specific response to prostitution alongside other types of crime, including domestic abuse and sexual violence.
“This is a complex issue that requires a multi-agency response, which includes prevention, community engagement, drug and alcohol support and police enforcement.
“Additionally, Suffolk Public Health team are working closely with commissioners across the eastern region, to develop a co-ordinated approach to scope and understand the scale, range and distribution of the sex worker population.”