Renewed efforts to tackle decades-old sex working problem in Peterborough

Renewed efforts are being made to tackle the decades-old problem of sex working in Peterborough.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 2:01 pm
Prostitution is said to be blighting the lives of residents
Prostitution is said to be blighting the lives of residents

Crime chiefs are meeting with affected residents who claim to have had their lives blighted by prostitution outside their front doors, including near where children walk to and from school.

The issue was raised by Will Prideaux during the first ever Ask the Leader session with the new Peterborough City Council leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, which was held via Zoom last Tuesday.

Mr Prideaux said sex working was affecting residents north of the city centre, with some people living in Burghley Road spending the past 40 years trying to get solutions.

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He even claimed one neighbour was recently trapped in their garage for several hours as they were “fearful” of going outside.

Attending the virtual meeting were Detective Chief Inspector Nikki Hall - police strategic lead to reduce harm for sex workers and vulnerable women - and Rob Hill, assistant director for community safety in Peterborough, who both highlighted efforts being made to tackle the problem, including attending meetings with affected residents and applying for government funding.

Addressing them both, Mr Prideaux said sex working was causing anti-social and criminal behaviour, including drug dealing.

He added: “This involves residents being regularly threatened and fearful of leaving their homes. A neighbour of mine spent several hours in her garage just a couple of days ago, unable to leave for fear of what would happen if she were to interrupt what was going on just outside her garage.

“We have a lot of schools around here, and school children witness prostitutes working daylight hours.

“Every night they are shouting in the streets until the early hours.

“The result of this is streets littered with drug paraphernalia and condoms. It’s been an ongoing issue for our neighbourhood for many years.

“As residents we have had enough of this.”

Cllr Fitzgerald, who said he will meet with residents on Friday to discuss the problem, replied: “I’ve lived in Peterborough a considerable time and it’s always been a complex issue.

DCI Hall, who oversees serious and complex crime in the northern half of the county for Cambridgeshire police, said there is a multi-agency approach which is supporting women out of exploitation, rehabilitating kerb crawlers and tackling perpetrators, with patrols having been stepped up.

She added: “We have listened (to the community). It isn’t an issue we’re going to solve overnight or in isolation.

“We want to very much work with you. Our neighbourhood team has prioritised it.

“I want to reassure you we are very much focused on this going forward.”

Mr Hill told Mr Prideaux: “There are three big issues affecting our city: one is around drug usage, one is around high levels of harm, and the third is around sex working with a focus on this issue.

“Across the partnerships we are treating this as a priority. We are working very hard to secure extra money to fund initiatives.

“My team is very focused on this issue. There are a multitude of solutions to this but it’s not an easy fix.

“This problem has been an issue in Peterborough for many, many years - and I’ll probably alarm you if I tell you how many years, it goes back decades - but I can assure you we’re doing all we can to focus together on this.”

Mr Hill said he was interested in automatic number plate recognition, and that a bid was being prepared for the Government’s Safer Streets Fund.

Reacting to the responses, Mr Prideaux said: “It’s really encouraging to hear. As residents we’ve accepted it for too long and that’s not the case any more.

“There are residents living in Burghley Road for 40 years who have been trying to address this problem.

“We are looking for the harm on these girls to stop, for people to stop having sex near our houses. We’re not looking for nice words, we’re not looking for platitudes, we’re not looking for the latest evidence on which listing course all these professionals have been on. We’re looking for things to change.”