Residents of Lordship Park have voiced concerns over street prostitution just weeks after Hackney Police carried out a vice operation to clean up the area.
Lordship Park, Shacklewell Lane and Brownswood Road were targeted by Hackney Police and the Met for four days between Monday 19th and Thursday 22nd July in a crackdown on street prostitution that resulted in 27 arrests, including 12 charges for kerb crawling and 22 cautions for prostitution. Other charges included possession of class A drugs, immigration offences, driving offences and begging. In a statement, PC Richard Lewington of Dalston Safer Neighbourhoods team said: “This operation is put in place to detect and deter offenders taking advantage of vulnerable prostitutes and causing misery to local residents. Hackney Police will not tolerate men kerb crawling for the purpose of buying sexual services.”
The crackdown comes after fears of a surge in human tracking to cater for more than 25,000 construction workers at the Olympic site. A report has revealed that the number of women selling sex on the streets of Hackney increased 35% between 2008 and 2009 from 200 to 260 women.
The five Olympic boroughs of Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Newham and Hackney could see an increase in vice activity in the run up to the games. Both Athens in 2004 and Sydney in 2000 noted a rise in the number of sex workers operating during their time as Olympic hosts, according to a Guardian report published last summer.
Local residents in Hackney’s worst affected streets say that the latest crackdown has had little effect. Nick Coates lives on Lordship Park and sees prostitutes soliciting outside his house daily. “Periodically the police will have a clean up operation and they go down to Brownswood Road. Then the police will put stickers up and then come back here,” he said.
“We hear street fighting right outside the door when the police carry out arrests. Female residents have also been stopped on the street by kerb crawlers asking for hand jobs.”
A young female neighbour said that she sees the same woman soliciting almost every day. “Normally a car will pull over and she’ll go down the road. It bothers me when I’m waiting for my bus and she’s staring at me. It’s awkward,” she said.
A resident of Queen Elizabeth Walk, who asked not to be named, spoke out about prostitutes soliciting during daylight hours. “Last month I was walking my daughter home from school and one of the prostitutes just slumped in front of my feet,” she said.
“It was 3.30pm. She was carrying a beer can but she looked drugged. She crawled across the pavement to Palm Court and lay on the grass. Then after five minutes she staggered across the grass and back to Lordship Park again. It was awful. There was another man going past with his child who just crossed the road.”
The same resident complained of disturbances through the night. “We have a constant loop of traffic going round Queen Elizabeth Walk and Allerton Road from about 4pm to 6am,” she said. “There are cars revving and tooting, and men shouting to prostitutes out their car windows. I think there should be more CCTV and a sign telling people they are being monitored. I know it’s not what Hackney’s about, but these people are abusing civil liberties.”
Local councillors agree that more action needs to be taken. Bernard Aussenberg, Conservative Councillor for Lordship Ward, said: “This has been going on for years and the situation hasn’t improved at all. I want police to do crackdowns once a week until we get the prostitutes out, but they say they haven’t got the manpower.”
Labour Cllr Daniel Stevens added that Hackney Police are due to give a report on the situation at the next meeting of the Stoke Newington Neighbourhood’s Forum in October.
Hackney Police said that the areas around Brownswood Road, Shacklewell Lane and Lordship Park are subject to regular high visibility patrols on foot, cycle and in vehicles. CCTV monitors are in place in the area to detect offences as they are being committed and ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reader) operations continue to be carried out, gathering intelligence on vehicles that frequent the areas in question at specific times of the day or night.
The police urge local residents to report any suspected vice activity to their local Safer Neighbourhoods team, however residents on Lordship Park have complained that this service is only available during office hours.
“All of this is only any good if police are prepared to be there when the problems are going on,” one resident said. “You can’t call 999 unless you see violent activity taking place, and no one answers the Safer Neighbourhoods number late at night.
“Why don’t they put a notice up saying that a vice squad operates here?” she continued. “It would build confidence in the community and also act as a further deterrent to the people involved.”
Concerned residents should contact their local Safer Neighbourhoods police team on 0300 123 1212.