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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 09:45 GMT
Tackling prostitution in Ipswich
As the funeral is held for the last of five prostitutes killed in Ipswich last year, BBC News's Maggie Dolan goes to the town's red light district to see what changes have been taking place.

Prostitute - anonymous image
Suffolk police are looking at all aspects of enforcement of the law

Since the deaths of the women, Suffolk Police and Ipswich Borough Council say they have been working hard to engage with prostitutes in the area and offer them and the local community reassurance and support.

But one woman who worked as a prostitute in Ipswich a year ago, says a tougher stance by the police has only moved the trade elsewhere.

"They are clamping down but the hard-core girls are still out there," said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous.

"They are not coming off the streets. Some of them are going to Norwich - they are getting the train and if they score there they stay.

"They cannot give up their jobs at the end of the day. They do not have any other way. They are not going to get that sort of money anywhere else."

The woman said drugs were a major problem, but with the help of a heroin substitute, she was now clean.

"You have got to really want it. It's a mental thing (to get off drugs). I got out about a year ago. I knew the girls really well. The only one I did not know was Tania."

A number of massage parlours operate in Ipswich and one is offering the chance for women who usually work as street prostitutes to use its premises.

Kate Bacon, the owner of Aquarius on St Helens Street, has even put an advert in a trade magazine.

Aquarius massage parlour
Aquarius' owner says the officers offer advice and support

She says women can work as staff or independently and use the premises. Accommodation can also be provided.

Ms Bacon said she would tolerate drug users as long as there were no substances on site, and anyone who turned up to work "smashed" would be sent home.

Suffolk police community support officers were coming to the premises on a weekly basis to offer help and support and "doing a good job".

The taxi drivers parked outside Ipswich railway station which is within the red light district and for whom the girls provided inevitable business, say things are quiet since the killings.

One, who works the night shift, said London Road was a lot less busy.

"You would always see lots of them (prostitutes) right from the hotel by the traffic lights, right up to the town centre roundabout.

"On the odd occasion you see them back but it is not like it used to be."

Another driver said: "The punters were definitely scared off when there was a strong police presence and they are now probably still scared off."

The local authority is building its new council headquarters on Russell Road, not far from London Road, which became the focus of media attention at the time of the killings.

Our aim is to prevent young vulnerable people entering this lifestyle and to provide exit strategies for those people already caught up in this way of life
Supt Alan Caton

Rosemary Alder lives with her husband Ron on London Road.

He is the chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and the couple have been pushing for more CCTV cameras in the area.

She believes the new council development and police action prior to the killings aimed at making it easier to monitor the girls, has shifted the trade.

"It is annoying the way we were portrayed in the press in general as being seen as a red light area.

"It used to be in the football ground area but because that has become gentrified, and because they developed the new Ipswich village they have pushed everyone here because it is more convenient for the police," she said.

At one time Mrs Alder could see ten prostitutes working the streets, but since the events of last year, she has seen only one girl return.

"She was the first I have seen for ages. I called my husband to say there is a girl back."

But the root of the problem is still drugs as far as she is concerned.

"They would not be out there if they did not need the money for the drugs," she said.

'Goodie-bags'

Don Egan is the director of the RSVP Trust, a Christian charity dedicated to changing lives, which provides so-called "goodie-bags" to prostitutes every Tuesday.

They contain condoms, soap and even sweets, but the aim is to emphasise the importance to the girls of staying healthy.

He said that in the pre-Christmas period the police used the tactic of moving the women on and not letting them stand on the street corner.

"Police were giving them a hard time," he said.

The police were now enforcing the no-drive zone around certain areas to deter kerb-crawlers, he added.

Supt Alan Caton, the southern area operations manager, confirmed that community police officers had visited a number of local premises to offer support, advice and reassurance since the killings.

"Our aim is to prevent young vulnerable people entering this lifestyle and to provide exit strategies for those people already caught up in this way of life," he said.

Police were looking at all aspects of enforcing the laws surrounding prostitution, so that policing could be improved.

Police were also enforcing the no-drive zone to prevent kerb crawlers entering the area and cut off the demand for prostitutes, he said.




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