'Small number' of street workers in Ipswich, 15 years after Steve Wright murders
- Credit: PA
Police have said "a couple" of sex workers are currently on the streets of Ipswich - although the number has been as high as nine.
Officers say most of the women have now exited street prostitution after receiving support.
Suffolk police and Ipswich Borough Council have been working with other agencies to keep women off the streets since the tragic events of 15 years ago, when five sex workers were murdered by Suffolk strangler Steve Wright.
Supt Jane Topping said: “In 2006 there were around 30 sex workers on the streets of Ipswich."
She said more recently there were a much smaller number – around nine. "After some targeted engagement, only a couple remain now engaged in street sex work.
“After 2006, Suffolk was the first county in the country to look at ways to support women exploited for sex by providing help, support and rehabilitation for them to overcome the issues in their lives.
“The police and council work continue to work in partnership with support agencies, making every effort, to ensure women get the required support to exit street sex work."
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Supt Topping added: “We want any woman who has been a victim of violence, exploitation or harassment to come to us. We do all we can to support them and bring the perpetrator to justice.
“In areas where we know people have concerns about their safety we try to ensure we maintain a visible police presence.
"There will also be some occasions where people will not realise that plain-clothes officers are working in the area to keep people safe.”
Alasdair Ross, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for community protection, said more rehabilitation services were needed to help street workers.
Mr Ross said the sex trade did not completely disappear in Ipswich after the murders, although it moved away from the streets.
"We always believed there was some going on behind the scenes, and some is linked to human trafficking and modern slavery."
He said a very small number of women were currently working on the streets. "I would say that almost all of them have a drug dependency."
Mr Ross said police, the council and other agencies were working to support all the women. But he commented: "We don't have enough rehabilitation services."
Public safety improvements are planned in the area around the town end of Norwich Road, including London Road, the former red light district. This will be paid for by £124,000 of government "safer streets" funding.
It will include CCTV and improving spaces like paths and underground walkways as well as funding for groups that help women.
Mr Ross said the Home Office funding will also in future enable the council to make personal alarms available to women in the area.