Beds, Herts & Bucks

Police and council tackle Luton prostitution 'blight'

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Media captionA 19-year-old man was caught with a known sex worker in his car within full view of a row of houses

Efforts to tackle the "blight" of prostitution in Luton have been increased by the police and council.

A five-year strategy for the High Town area begins on Thursday, with more patrols to target kerb crawlers, police say.

Luton Borough Council has issued a dispersal order to force those suspected of anti-social behaviour to leave the area.

It said people were "fed up" with the trade in their neighbourhood.

In April, residents handed a 2,000-signature petition to the council calling for a vote of no confidence in two of their councillors who they claimed took greater care of prostitutes.

Supporting ex-workers

The latest action is a joint project between the police and the council, who have invested £50,000 into tackling the problem.

As well as the dispersal order, resources have been allocated to projects that will support workers to leave the sex trade.

Other measures include fitting doors to secure bin store areas, which had been used by sex workers in the past.

Car park barriers have also been installed.

Councillor Naseem Ayub said the council was "committed" to working with police to stamp it out.

"People in Luton are fed up with this trade taking place in their neighbourhoods," she said.

"We want this blight removed from our streets by 2018."

'Deep-rooted problem'

Chief superintendent Mark Turner said nearly 130 people had been detained for kerb crawling in the past six months.

But he added it was a "complex and deep-rooted problem" so just making arrests was not the answer.

"We firmly believe this strategy will also help find long term practical solutions to help those women who find themselves working within the sex trade."

A 38-year-old sex worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said she doubted the move would impact on her life as she was unlikely to be sent to prison.

She said she had been on drugs since she was 15, and has been jailed for other crimes.

"Even though [prostitution] is still a crime, I wasn't going to prison for it," she said.

"It's more dangerous but it was the only option I had to keep me out of prison because with my criminal record I couldn't get a job."

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