Police and council plan vice crackdown

POLICE and council chiefs in Ipswich are planning the biggest ever crackdown on prostitution in the wake of December's five vice-girl killings, the EADT can reveal.

POLICE and council chiefs in Ipswich are planning the biggest ever crackdown on prostitution in the wake of December's five vice-girl killings, the EADT can reveal.

A major strategy aimed at ridding the town of its red light district is being devised in what has been described as a “real sea-change in attitude”.

The EADT understands a raft of measures are planned, including the stricter use of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) against prostitutes and a more focused law enforcement against kerb crawlers.

Women will be offered help to tackle the cause of their problems as part of a move that will also see the introduction of improved street lighting and extra CCTV cameras for the red light area.

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The plans, put forward by the Ipswich Prostitutes Steering Group, which includes police, council and drug worker representatives, are currently in their final stages.

Ipswich borough councillor David Ellesmere said they represent a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to banish the problem.

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But the English Collective of Prostitutes last night branded the proposals as “a cover for a brutal crackdown” on vice girls.

Spokeswoman Cari Mitchell said: “We are horrified the authorities want to introduce a crackdown that has been shown to force women underground and make them more vulnerable to attack. Have no lessons be learned?

“We know women in Ipswich are waiting months to get into drug treatment programmes. We think the street lighting and cameras are just a cover for a brutal crackdown.”

But Mr Ellesmere, who has been at the helm of efforts to highlight the issue for many years, backed the initiative.

He said: “It's a huge issue and is going to need a concerted effort to tackle it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do it.

“What this strategy will say is; 'We're not going to tolerate street prostitution anywhere in Ipswich'. We've never had a strong statement like that before.

“It will be possibly the most important development that has been announced and is a real sea-change in attitude.

“The most important point is that the strategy will pledge to tackle prostitution in Ipswich as a whole - if it moves to another part of the town I would expect it to be given the same treatment there.”

Mr Ellesmere said he supported initial moves to help the women address their problems.

“We've got to do as much as we can to help these women out of these difficult circumstances but if they have received the help and are still going out on the streets then you have got to look at Asbos,” he said.

“The reason Ipswich and Norwich have red-light areas is because kerb-crawlers know they can pick up prostitutes.

“If you break that cycle, kerb crawlers won't come here and women won't go out on the streets.”

Mike Brain, who lives on the edge of the red-light district, chairs a neighbourhood watch group in the area and is a member of the Ipswich Prostitutes Steering Committee.

He said: “Many people think it's a case of the police coming along and clearing it up but it's not as simple as that because of the women's drug problems.

“The key thing is to help them find a route out. At the height of the killings in December there were virtually no cars down here and it makes you realise that most of the traffic we have is kerb crawlers.”

The Ipswich Prostitutes Steering Group declined to comment on its plans last night.

n Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 25, and Annette Nicholls, 29, were found dead at locations on the edge of Ipswich in December after working in the town's red-light district.

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