Hackney police crack down on kerb crawlers

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Police in Shacklewell are cracking down on street prostitution by sending out letters to individuals they have stopped while “loitering in the vicinity” of known kerb-crawling hotspots.

A letter seen by the Hackney Post further states that “people who routinely spend time in this area will be investigated to establish their reasons for being at the location”. It also threatens to “[pay] visits to persistent suspects’ homes and [name] them in local media”.

These letters, which the Shacklewell Safer Neighbourhoods Team have been sending out for the past month, are part of a wider effort to tackle vice-related anti-social behaviour in Hackney. Police will also be conducting high-visibility patrols in and around Shacklewell Lane, and will be using dispersal orders, which forbid an individual to return to a designated area for 48 hours, to move along sex workers and their clients.

One local resident, who preferred not to be named, welcomed the increased police presence in the area. “Something does need to be done. There’s condoms on the street, the girls are shouting and screeching late at night. The clients bring drugs into the area.”

Shacklewell Green, one of the kerb-crawling hotspots identified by police Image credit: Niamh McIntyre

Dragan Aleksic, owner of a wine merchants on Shacklewell Lane, said that the number of sex workers in the area has fluctuated over time. “The girls don’t bother me, but the pimps do. It was much worse before. And then we had no problems at all for a while, but now it is getting a little worse again. In one way, having police on patrol would be good. But then, if the police chase them from here, they will just go to another area, and some of these girls need help.”

Laura Watson, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, said, “Criminalising clients [who pay for sexual services] does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising.”

“Sex workers are moving to more isolated and unfamiliar areas as a result of these policies, and attacks on women have increased. In 2014, [sex worker] Mariana Popa was killed after a police crackdown on kerb crawlers just a couple of boroughs away, in Redbridge.”

A Home Affairs Committee published a report in July calling for the Home Office to “immediately change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence.”

Shacklewell Safer Neighbourhoods Team declined to comment.