Vicar's conerns over vice strategy

A CHURCH leader who has spoken nationally about Ipswich's red-light killings today said those trying to tackle prostitution in the town needed to act with caution.

A CHURCH leader who has spoken nationally about Ipswich's red-light killings today said those trying to tackle prostitution in the town needed to act with caution.

Andrew Dotchin, reverend of Whitton Church, said he was concerned that the town's new prostitution strategy could see the problem on the streets moved into other areas and could criminalise women who are already victims.

He said: “I know the strategy is good at its heart but I suspect that some people may want to make mileage out of the possibilities behind a zero tolerance headline.

“If we end up with a system that is all stick and not much carrot then we will see the trade being driven underground and women put into threatening and dangerous circumstances.”

Police however have stressed they will be looking to help sex workers rather than punish them.

New details of the strategy emerged today, as it was unveiled in full, and the cost of the effort also became clearer.

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It was developed by a raft of agencies following the deaths of sex workers Tania Nicol, 19, Gemma Adams, 25, Paula Clennell, 24, Annette Nicholls, 29, and Anneli Alderton, 24, whose bodies were found on the outskirts of Ipswich in December.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet is set to decide next month on a proposal to contribute up to £400,000 over two years for its part in the efforts to help Ipswich's sex workers overcome drug addictions and stop working the streets, while the crackdown on kerb crawlers, high visibility police patrols and other policing costs are expected to reach £260,000.

Ipswich Borough Council will spend £300,000 on changes to the red-light district, such as improvements to lighting and installing gates at alleyways, while cameras to detect kerb crawlers and improve security is expected to cost a further £65,000.

Mr Dotchin, who knew Miss Nicol, said he supported moves to help street workers into rehabilitation for drug and alcohol problems but was worried about the possible use of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) to try and keep them from the streets.

He added: “The strategy is saying if they (the women) have four or five encounters with police they will give them an Asbo.

“I would hope that if they are waiting for treatment and want to get of prostitution this won't happen because they have got to feed their habit while they are waiting for rehab.”

Meanwhile the Safety First Coalition, which is co-ordinated by the English Collective of Prostitutes, said a zero tolerance stance against kerb crawling could force prostitution further underground.

What do you think about the new efforts to tackle Ipswich's prostitution problem? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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