Leeds & West Yorkshire

Extra police for Holbeck's managed red light zone

Prostitute working in Holbeck
Image caption Numbers fluctuate, but up to 15 women usually work in the Holbeck "managed approach" area each night, according to the Basis Yorkshire charity

A new police unit has been brought in to help patrol a controlled red-light zone in Leeds.

The "managed approach" in Holbeck started in 2014 and allows women to sell sex between specified hours.

It aims to improve safety for sex workers and reduce the problems caused by street prostitution, but protests have been held by local residents worried about anti-social behaviour.

Four new police officers have been brought in to help address concerns.

Leeds City Council said the officers, who started their roles in the past fortnight, work alongside an existing police liaison officer "who focuses on sex worker safety".

The move, by Safer Leeds, follows consultation work with Holbeck residents, street sex workers, community groups and support agencies.

The team of five will help to provide a faster response to concerns made on a dedicated police phone line and "build positive relationships" with sex workers and residents in the area.

An independent review of the "managed approach" will take place in 2019 once the changes have "bedded in", Safer Leeds added.

Holbeck "managed approach"

  • Started in October 2014 and extended in 2015 following a review
  • Women are allowed to sell sex within the zone between 20:00 and 06:00
  • No offences are tolerated within residential areas or outside open businesses
  • Numbers fluctuate, but 12-15 women usually work in the area each night
  • Drug use, trafficking, organised crime, coercion and indecency "will at no time be tolerated", the current list of rules states
  • Leeds City Council works with various charities and agencies to provide support to sex workers and help them leave the sex industry

Sources: Leeds City Council/Basis Yorkshire

Councillor Debra Coupar, of Leeds City Council, said: "The extra resources will boost our presence further on the ground and enable faster responses to issues.

"All our new arrangements are being monitored to ensure they are achieving the desired impact."

Image caption Some residents in the Holbeck area have held protests about the managed sex zone near their homes

Ch Supt Steve Cotter, of West Yorkshire Police, said the force "remain convinced" the system was working.

"It provides the best opportunity to safeguard the vulnerable women involved in street sex work, to limit the issues that impact on residents and businesses and to reduce the level of street sex work in Leeds," he said.

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