Ipswich drives out prostitution after killings

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The Independent Online

Almost five years after the murders of five women in Ipswich, on-street prostitution has been virtually eliminated from the town, according to local authorities.

More than 200 women have been helped to avoid a life of prostitution since 2006, when Steve Wright dumped the naked bodies of prostitutes Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell in different locations across the county.

Organisers of the area's Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy said that 140 alleged kerb crawlers and 55 people suspected of trafficking and sexual coercion had been arrested.

Colin Spence, a Conservative councillor, said: "Ipswich is now a completely different place. The community has really come together to make this happen. However, we mustn't move away from the fact that we have to press on."

Police adopted a non-judgmental approach towards the women themselves, but were far more punitive on the men trying to enlist their services.

"The murders showed us that we had to do something about street prostitution and the vulnerable women who put themselves in danger every time they stepped out on to the streets," said Alan Caton, head of public protection at Suffolk Constabulary.

"Their only choice was that they had no choice, and in most cases were trying to fund a very serious drug habit. We only arrested two of the women as a last resort."

He applauded the efforts of a watchful local community, who "had to put up with a lot: litter, used needles, used condoms and antisocial behaviour late at night".

Brian Tobin, co-founder of the addiction charity Iceni, which offered the town's sex workers cash to stay off the streets, stressed that while the situation had improved, underlying problems needed to be resolved. "We still have a huge off-street sex industry in Ipswich – there are at least 20 individuals working from their own homes and six or seven 'massage' parlours – but they don't tend to have drug-related problems," he said.