Plymouth police to arrest 'lifestyle' prostitutes and send them to court
PLYMOUTH'S street-walking prostitutes are to face a tougher police stance.
Pc Chris May, Stonehouse neighbourhood beat manager and prostitute liaison officer, said the women who prowl the Millbay area are being offered help from a variety of organisations, to encourage them to stop soliciting.
He said: "We explain to them that if they engage with us and our partner agencies, then we'll help them and provide support. It could be they're doing it to pay for drugs, or alcohol, or debts. Our partner agencies like Harbour, can help get them into programmes, or give them benefit advice to stop that need.
"However, if they are soliciting as a lifestyle choice, then they can expect to end up in front of magistrates. Under new legislation magistrates could place an order on them to compel them to attend a programme, and if they fail to attend we can go down the road of large fines or Antisocial Behaviour Orders which can ban them from the area. If they breach those orders, they risk imprisonment.
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"The idea is to afford them every opportunity to stop street walking.
"As for the men – if we have sufficient evidence they're getting cautioned straight away. Others are receiving warning letters which are sent to their homes. If they use a company car, the letters are sent to their workplace and if they use their wife's car, then it is sent to her."
Pc Colin Pryce, of the Integrated Offender Management Unit, said joint working with groups like Harbour, the drug and alcohol treatment service was key to tackling the problem.
He said: "Pc May and his team will give the working girl the chance to be contacted by myself and one of Harbour's Drugs Intervention Programme (DIP) workers to get them help. They get 12 weeks support, and we can signpost them to a number of different agencies, including mental, physical and psychological health and even access to benefits advice.
"If they refuse to engage, we can go back to Pc May, agree a plan of action and employ the criminal justice system. We give them every option, but if there's no alternative we go to court.
"We can show they were offered support but refused all help. With no more excuses to give, the court can make a clear decision.
"At the end of the day, we are supporting the community and hopefully this will reduce the number of complaints police get from the neighbourhood and the amount of time police spend dealing with it."
Pc May said the "carrot and stick" approach may appear harsh, but noted how those who live in Millbay have to suffer the numerous effects of being the South West's sole red light district.
He said: "I've been working this patch for the last five years and we've tried everything.
"It's the same faces now as five years ago. One woman has even been doing it for 19 years.
"Some have made it quiet clear that they're not interested in changing their lifestyle.
"It's not true every working girl is an addict, or forced into it by pimps. Some have relatively stable backgrounds and make it a lifestyle choice. They see it as good money, without tax and a victimless crime. Some argue they can make more money as a working girl than a checkout operator. They become psychologically hardened to it and find it difficult to quit. That's why we're putting all this partner agency working in place, to help them get out of the game for good."