Manchester

Kerb-crawlers targeted in Bolton prostitution campaign

A three year police campaign in Bolton to educate kerb-crawlers about the impact of their crime has resulted in an 85% reduction in prostitution.

More than 500 men were arrested and sent on courses, where they were forced to read residents' letters about the effect of prostitution on communities.

Police claim the number of women working the streets has reduced from 140 to 20.

Kerb-crawlers were offered the course rather than face prosecution.

They receive a police caution and are warned that if they re-offend they will be charged and "named and shamed" in the local press.

Police said that there was just a 2% re-offending rate and that prostitution had been eliminated in the town's residential areas.

Insp Phil Spurgeon said: "We tackled this idea that I think exists in most kerb-crawlers' heads that it's a simple business transaction that doesn't impact on the community or the people involved.

"We've tried to educate them that actually it has massive implications for the community and locks the women into a cycle of abuse, and really puts themselves at risk."

'People's daughters'

One kerb-crawler, who attended a course and did not wish to be named, said: "When I saw the letter from local residents about the use of drugs and how they can't let their kids walk down certain streets, you just feel ashamed.

"You think you're not harming anybody, but you are."

The police have worked with community organisation, Urban Outreach and local health and housing services to help prostitutes recover from drug addiction and their dependency on drug dealers.

Dave Bagley of Urban Outreach, which runs a drop-in centre on Salop Street in Bolton's red light district, said: "We provide an environment where women aren't judged and can just come in and see us about anything in their lives.

"Eventually some of them start to see a window onto a drug-free world through their contact with us and in some cases they make up their minds that they want to get back to that.

"It's very hard to come off drugs like crack cocaine and heroine, but we put them in touch with the Substance Misuse Service and help get them housed and give them a place from which they can start re-building family relationships."

One former prostitute's mother said: "These girls belong to people and are people's daughters.

"These [kerb-crawlers] are just animalistic. The police are doing a really good job.

"If you look at the street now there's nobody on it and there used to be hundreds here."

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