New plans announced to eradicate return of street prostitution 10 years after the Ipswich murders
- Credit: PA
Ten years after the town was scarred by the Steve Wright murders, efforts to ensure street prostitution does not return to Ipswich are being stepped up.
Politicians and other civic leaders have come together to agree a statement pledging to step up the battle against street prostitution – and a new plan aimed at ensuring it will not return is to be published early next year.
The civic leaders came together after reports emerged that some prostitution had returned to the streets that Wright terrorised in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2006.
Borough council leader David Ellesmere said a new plan to deal with any return would focus on two aims.
He said: “We have to make it as easy as possible for the girls to get out of prostitution and the opening of the Talitha Koum centre has certainly helped there.
“And we have to make it as difficult as possible for them to continue working on the streets.
“When the police started the clampdown 10 years ago they targeted the users, not the girls themselves. There were no girls arrested during the first year.
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“There may have been one or two arrests of girls after that – those who would not engage with those trying to deal with the problem – but the aim was to deal with the users in the first instance.”
Mr Ellesmere was encouraged that politicians from both main parties had signed the statement: “I really think they all understand the importance of this and accept that there will need to be some resources put towards this work,” he said.
Statement on Street Prostitution in Ipswich
It is ten years since the murders of five women in Ipswich.
One of the few positive things to result from this terrible time was the successful implementation of a strategy to eliminate street prostitution completely from Ipswich.
We are deeply concerned about recent reports that prostitution and kerb crawling are being seen again on our streets.
We recognise that prostitution also happens off the street, away from view, and that there are very worrying issues about human trafficking and child sexual exploitation involved in this activity.
We need to ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the vulnerable people involved in this aspect of prostitution.
However street prostitution is uniquely dangerous for the women involved and we believe that our priority should be to ensure that they are removed from this danger.
We are not prepared to let street prostitution and kerb crawling become re-established in Ipswich.
We are committed to:
1. Removing street prostitution from Ipswich completely and permanently
2. Developing, as a matter of urgency, a plan to ensure this happens
3. Ensuring that the resources are put in place to successfully implement this plan
4. Developing a wider plan to tackle the child sexual exploitation and human trafficking involved in off-street prostitution and safeguard the vulnerable people involved.
Deborah Cadman – Chief Executive, Suffolk County Council
David Ellesmere – Leader, Ipswich Borough Council
Ed Garratt – Chief Officer, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG
Ben Gummer MP
Colin Noble – Leader, Suffolk County Council
Tim Passmore – Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner
Adbul Razaq – Director of Public Health and Protection, Suffolk County Council
Michael Scott – Chief Executive, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust
Russell Williams – Chief Executive, Ipswich Borough Council
Gareth Wilson – Chief Constable, Suffolk Constabulary
What those involved say
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer: “It’s very concerning that it seems like we have the latest in street prostitution again.
“I commend the borough council for taking on this important issue quickly, and will do everything I can to repeat the success that they showed 10 years ago.
“It’s worth repeating that not only has the strategy been very successful at removing vulnerable women from the street, but we also make considerable progress in stopping off-street prostitution which has been a major source of human trafficking and in some places modern slavery. We cannot let up on this issue.”
Colin Noble, Suffolk County Council leader: “I think it’s very important, and all of us when we heard it had returned to the streets of Ipswich felt it was important we came together.
“Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, mental health services and police all sat down had a meeting, and all the agencies across Suffolk have come together, and we are going to be working to make sure that the support and services are there so that we eradicate it from the streets of Ipswich.
“Ten years ago a successful strategy was launched, and times move on. But I think there are elements of that and new approaches that the professional teams will be using to work and make sure that this leaves our streets.”
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore: “I am aware of the situation and completely committed as police and crime commissioner to working alongside agencies including our Ipswich MP, councillors and health authorities.
“I am very happy to sign up to this statement because we don’t want this issue of street prostitution in our county town again.
“We need to do everything possible to prevent this becoming a problem again, and I must reiterate that this must be supported on a multi-agency approach – it is not for one agency to deal with alone.
“It’s quite a poignant reminder of what happened 10 years ago – it’s a difficult issue and has been raised at our recent public meetings.
“We are taking this very, very seriously and we will do whatever we can to help get the resources in the right place.”
The 2007-2008 strategy
In 2007, the Ipswich/Suffolk Joint Agency Strategy on Street Prostitution opted not to clampdown on women working the streets – but instead the men who used them and, in particular, kerb crawlers.
Police chiefs said by cutting off the demand for a sex trade, desperate women prepared to sell their bodies for money to spend on drug addictions would be more likely to seek rehabilitation.
Over the next year, there were 137 arrests for kerb-crawling – compared to just 10 the year before.
But the strategy also looked at how to help women already in the industry to get support and leave prostitution, and prevent those who were vulnerable to becoming a part of it.
Officers at the time hailed the commitment by the women to kick their drug habit and stay off the streets, while education work in schools and improving the environments where street prostitution happened were also influential.
The Iceni Project, a cause helping women treat addictions, supported many women who had never had the help they needed in giving up their drug dependencies, with the multi-agency partnership in turn helping reduce the numbers of assaults, robberies, rapes and violent relationships reported on those women.