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Operation Jaeger: Tackling sex work in Swansea city centre

SEX WORKERS who refuse to engage with support services will face the likelihood of prosecution as police in Swansea continue to clamp down on soliciting.

During the past 12 months, Swansea Neighbourhood Policing Team have worked closely with specialist officers and a range of partner agencies including Women’s Aid, to establish SWAN, a sex worker outreach project. The project aims to divert women away from sex work with support, advocacy and by improving access to services including drug treatment and housing.

With the project now well-established and successfully helping those accepting of the support, focus will now turn to those who refuse to engage and continually flout the law, impacting on the lives of others living, working and visiting the city centre.

From this week, more stringent enforcement will be taken against both men and women engaging in sex work and those who visit the area to exploit those selling sex.

Dispersal notices, which ban an individual from a specified area for a specified time, will be used widely, coupled with further opportunities to accept support from the outreach project.

Those found engaging in sexual activity will face prosecution for soliciting or outraging public decency, and applications will be submitted to the courts for Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) for persistent offenders.

In addition, men who are found to be “kerb-crawling” the area will face police action, as will anyone found to be organising or coercing sex workers into prostitution.

Officers will take an escalating approach to enforcement, with education and diversionary support encouraged alongside or prior to prosecution. Among the measures available to officers will be conditional cautions, mandatory educational programmes, and fines for kerb-crawlers who fail to heed initial warnings.

City Centre Chief Inspector Geraint White said: “Sex working is a complex issue which cannot be dealt with in isolation. The vast majority of the women and men selling sex in Swansea have addictions to alcohol or drugs, mental health issues and housing concerns. A proportion of them are being forced or coerced in to it.

“That is why we are taking a phased approach to tackling the issue. We recognise that people engaging in this kind of work are extremely vulnerable and we have a duty to do all we can to safeguard them.

“However, their actions are having a huge impact on the wider community, who we also have a duty to protect. Residents, business owners and visitors to Swansea have a right to be able to go about their lives without feeling intimidated or harassed by sex workers, those controlling them or kerb-crawlers, and without witnessing the associated criminality and antisocial behaviour which so often goes hand-in-hand with sex work.

“Ideally we want to help those who have found themselves – for whatever reason – involved in sex work. But I want to be crystal clear – first and foremost we are police officers and we will take robust action against those breaking the law.”

Western division, which covers Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, has adopted the approach following months of research and education, which has involved sharing best practice from other forces across the UK and working closely with criminal justice partners.

Chief Insp White added: “The concerns raised by the public over recent months have been shared by the force and we have been working tirelessly to strike the right balance in order to tackle the issue.

“There are in excess of 100 sex workers known to be operating in Swansea and it is not a problem that can be solved overnight, nor is it an issue that can simply be solved by prosecuting and moving people on. We are working with the courts to consider alternatives to fining sex workers, who will then inevitably be forced back on to the streets in order to pay the fine, and we’ve had to ensure strong partnerships were forged with support services before we could focus heavily on enforcement.

“Now we have reached that point, I’m confident that those who use the area will begin to see a gradual but marked improvement in the city centre.”

Local residents, business owners and visitors are urged to work with police to continue improving the area for the benefit of everyone.

Chief Insp White added: “The local community are invaluable to us and I would urge anyone with information – particularly in relation to those believed to be exploiting and controlling sex workers – to come forward and tell us what they know or suspect. We can and do act upon the information provided to us by members of the public.”

South Wales Police can be contacted via 101, or 999 in an emergency. Crimestoppers can also be contacted 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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