Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Payne praise for vice campaigners

Sara Payne and Louise Casey
Mrs Payne (l) arrived with government crime adviser Louise Casey

Residents of a London street where prostitution was once rife have been praised by the government's Victims' Champion for "reclaiming" the area.

Sara Payne met residents of Josephine Avenue in Brixton, where parents and school pupils "could not get down the streets for prostitutes" each morning.

They had "banded together", she said, and introduced measures such as a road barrier to discourage kerb-crawling.

Mrs Payne said "residents' power" had "really cheered me up".

"Residents got sick to the back teeth of endless prostitutes, pimps and kerb-crawlers all over their streets, and I mean in vast numbers.

"They were trying to take their kids to school at 8.30 in the morning and could not get down the street for prostitutes, and that is just not acceptable.

"It reached a point when they thought 'enough is enough' - and I think, 'Good for them.'"

Mrs Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, was recruited by the government last month for her current role.

'Amazing street'

It will last a year and is intended to allow victims and witnesses of crime - who total more than 1.5 million annually - to have an independent voice.

Mrs Payne was told by secretary of the Josephine Avenue Group Louise Belson that instances of prostitution in the street had dropped dramatically since the road barrier had been installed.

"People in the neighbourhood are starting to do other things, like allow their children out to play and to do their gardens," said Ms Belson, who has lived in the street for 23 years.

Louise Casey (left) and Sara Payne (second left) speak to the Macdonald family
Mrs Payne met members of the Macdonald family

"When the problems were at their height, I thought about leaving, but I am very glad I have stayed through it. It's an amazing street."

Another resident, father-of-two Alex Macdonald, said: "When it was bad, it was terrible.

"We have been woken up at 3am by pimps chasing half-naked prostitutes down the street.

"There has been banging on the doors, evidence of drug use, evidence of prostitutes' activity.

"It has been terrible and the Josephine Avenue Group have worked miracles in what they have done."

The street is in the borough of Lambeth, which is one of 60 new "neighbourhood crime and justice pioneer areas" in England and Wales.

The local authority will receive 100,000 over the next two years.

The money is to pay for somebody to co-ordinate crime-prevention strategies, as well as for services to help victims and witnesses of crime.

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