Kerb crawlers who make their excuses and weep

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The Independent Online
FEIGNING A heart attack, running over a police officer with a car and bursting into tears are among the tactics employed by men caught looking for prostitutes, a survey of more than 500 kerb crawlers has found.

Other men claimed to be "rescuing women" or "warming up the car engine".

Men arrested seeking while street sex usually go through five forms of defence: the amused phase, the excuse phase, the indignant phase, the pleading phase and then possibly a confrontational phase, the study discovered.

In one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind, Belinda Brooks-Gordon of the institute of criminology at Cambridge University identified a variety of excuses, ranging from the desperate to the absurd.

Records of 518 men questioned by police for soliciting offences from 1997 to November 1998 were examined and more than 300 hours were spent observing the Metropolitan Police clubs and vice unit.

The men ranged in age from 17 to 77, although most were about 40. The largest group - men of white-skinned European appearance - made up 42 per cent of cases. Men of South Asian appearance consti-tuted about 20 per cent of cases, men of Arabian and Egyptian appearance made up 15 per cent, Greeks and Italians made up just over 10 per cent and men of African Caribbean appearance totalled 6 per cent.

Only about one-quarter of the men admitted they were kerb crawling when stopped. Those who attempted to defend themselves often began with the "amused phase", acting bemused that they had been stopped.

In the "excuse phase" men provide reasons such as "I was just burning oil off" or "I was warming the car engine up". A few men made appeals, such as having lost their wife, while others admitted to cruising the red light area to look at the women "out of curiosity". Some simply argued that they were married.

In nearly three-quarters of the cases the men denied kerb crawling. In other cases men claimed their motives were essentially charitable: "she looked cold" or they were "rescuing women".

In the two most extreme cases the drivers failed to stop their cars. One man in a stolen car ran over a male police officer. In the second case a man escaped but was later charged with kerb crawling and reckless driving.

Nearly all the suspects, however, would move from being indignant to a phase of pleading, begging to be allowed off the charge. In some cases the men became so desperate they would pretend to suffer faintness or a heart attack.