Progress in fight to eradicate vice

FIVE Ipswich prostitutes have vowed to change their lifestyles following the launch of a high-profile strategy by police, drug and council workers, it has emerged.

FIVE Ipswich prostitutes have vowed to change their lifestyles following the launch of a high-profile strategy by police, drug and council workers, it has emerged.

Suffolk Police Authority was told that inroads were already being made in tackling street prostitution in the town since the strategy was unveiled last month.

The Ipswich Prostitutes Steering Group outlined a raft of new measures it hopes will rid the town's streets of the sex trade in the wake of the killings of five prostitutes last year.

These include extra CCTV cameras and a major police crackdown on kerb-crawling, with enhanced technology to track offenders.

A programme of support has also been identified to support vice girls, many of whom are addicted to Class A drugs.

John Fletcher, temporary Assistant Chief Constable, told members of the authority yesterday: “At the moment, we have two female officers seconded to Ipswich currently working on Operation Sumac (the investigation into the killings of the five prostitutes, whose bodies were found on the outskirts of Ipswich).

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“They have been engaging with these women. Yes, there are those who do not want their lives changed.

“But there are five women in the last six weeks who are keen to have their lifestyle examined and changed.

“As a result, next week there is a multi-agency meeting with these five women. It's a starting point.”

Since Operation Sumac was launched, Suffolk Constabulary has collated an abundance of information relating to prostitution in Ipswich, the meeting heard.

Superintendent Alan Caton, the southern area operations manager, said the force was aware there were more than 100 working prostitutes in Suffolk. Six women actively worked at any one time, he added.

“As a result of the tragic events that occurred we were able to develop a huge wealth of understanding, the number of women on the streets, about the men, where activities take place and the various sites where women take their clients,” he said.

“We are gleaning information from the tragic inquiry.”

Supt Caton said 30 men had already been arrested for kerb-crawling since the strategy was put in place.

“We have adopted a zero-tolerance approach and we make no apologies for that,” he said.

“The majority of men who engage are either married or in long-term relationships and when they are caught they are absolutely devastated.

“Men will be arrested and will come into police custody. If it is their first offence they will be cautioned. With that, we take DNA, fingerprints and they are now on our records.

“If they have any previous convictions, they will be charged.”

The Ipswich Street Prostitution Strategy has previously been criticised by the English Collective of Prostitutes, which argued it would drive the problem underground.

Acting Chief Constable Colin Langham-Fitt said if this happened, police would focus their crackdown on these areas.

“We are focusing on street prostitution but that's not the end of our strategy. It's just the beginning.

“Once we have that mechanism in place, if that displacement starts to occur we will respond to it in the same way. We will not tolerate what's, in effect, a form of slavery in the sex trade.”

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