Kerb crawling crackdown: landmark arrest

VICE cops are today forging ahead with their war on the sleazy kerb crawlers who cruise Ipswich's red-light district after reaching a major milestone by making their 100th arrest.

VICE cops are today forging ahead with their war on the sleazy kerb crawlers who cruise Ipswich's red-light district after reaching a major milestone by making their 100th arrest.

The town's crackdown on street prostitution in the wake of the red light killings has seen rapid results - with most of those arrested given cautions and warned not to return while repeat offenders have been hauled before the courts.

Since the launch of Operation Impression on March 19 the number of prostitutes working the streets regularly has been halved and the number of men trawling the red-light district has also dropped.

Teams of undercover police regularly patrol the streets around Portman Road, Handford Road and London Road after dark and an expanded web of CCTV cameras capture and record the movements of kerb crawlers and those who approach sex workers on foot.

The 100th arrest was one of three made on Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning by undercover officers keeping watch over the red-light district. Police today revealed the man who became the 100th arrested was from Ipswich and he was held for kerb crawling.

Others arrested during the operation have been caught either kerb crawling, persistently soliciting a prostitute or outraging public decency - effectively being caught in the act engaging in a sex act in a public place.

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In London Road, formerly one of the streets worst affected by prostitution, residents say prostitutes are now rarely seen, police patrols have been stepped up and they have welcomed the installation of a CCTV camera which watch over their homes.

Ron Alder, chairman of the London Road Neighbourhood Watch group, said: "We have noticed a great difference. There are very, very few sightings of the girls working.”

Fellow London Road resident Julie Hyland said: "I haven't seen a prostitute on our road for a long time, there is a good police presence down here.”

While the operation remains in its early days, the arrest tally has rocketed with suspects being picked up on virtually every shift.

Sgt Karl Nightingale, one of the officers involved in Operation Impression, said: "We have already seen a decline in the demand for street prostitution in that area. The aim is to steadily erode that demand.

"There is still a need to continue. We are fully committed to continuing with the operation.

"We are having a big impact. To have 100 people arrested in a six-month period is phenomenal."

Mr Nightingale said that Operation Impression was the first long-term covert vice operation run in Ipswich and as it progressed Suffolk police was becoming better at catching the men who visit the red-light district to pay for sex.

n Have you noticed an improvement in the red-light district? Do you support the police efforts? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WHEN Ipswich's new five-year street prostitution strategy was launched in March, the coalition of authorities behind it warned the problem would not be fixed overnight.

While London Road residents are reporting improvements, police and prostitution workers say there are about six or eight working girls still regularly going out on the streets.

Handford Road, Portman Road, Alderman recreation area and a few other neighbouring streets continue to be affected.

Suffolk police now has two female officers working with the women in an attempt to convince them to tackle their drug addictions while the undercover officers patrol in unmarked cars in search of kerb crawlers.

The operation is called Operation Impression and its aim is to send a clear message to kerb crawlers that if they visit Ipswich for sex they will be caught and could be fined or be given anti-social behaviour orders by the courts and publicly humiliated by being named and shamed in the press.

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