A revised, more intensive focus on the strategic direction of the Managed Approach in Leeds which includes a package of extra resources has been announced today.
It is part of a more tailored strategic and operational approach which includes a renewed emphasis on policing, cleansing and related support services as part of a push to address issues raised in the local community in Holbeck.
Safer Leeds, the city’s community safety partnership, has introduced extra policing, match-funded by Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police, on top of existing police provision.
The partnership, which consults on an ongoing basis, has spent a number of months engaging in detail with residents, community groups, street sex workers and support agencies. The new package of measures has been put in place to directly address concerns raised.
This will also help support the main purposes of the Managed Approach. They are to safeguard vulnerable women workers in the street sex trade; to support them in tackling the complex problems they face transitioning away from selling sex on street and to simultaneously work to reduce the impact of on street sex work selling on the local community.
As part of a wider programme of work to tackle community concerns, the additional police team began work in the area a fortnight ago to enhance the existing enforcement and support activity there.
Four new dedicated officers are working alongside the existing police liaison officer who focuses on sex worker safety, and the new unit is also boosted by support where needed from the South Leeds neighbourhood policing team, which provides their lead.
Their role includes:
providing a faster response to calls made through the dedicated phone line;
building positive relationships with sex workers to support greater confidence in reporting concerns or where they have been a victim of crime and signposting them to specialist support services;
acting on intelligence provided by a range of partners, including local people, to increase presence and patrols in areas flagged for concern;
using proactive enforcement measures to tackle a variety of issues and target those not abiding by the rules; including soliciting and kerb crawling in residential areas which is not tolerated;
getting to know local residents, community representatives and businesses to understand their concerns and feed them back to influence operational and strategic management of the initiative.
Other new initiatives include a much more focused gathering and analysis of data across services by the partnership to inform the best and most efficient way forward as the Managed Approach evolves.
It was set up in response to long-standing issues of street sex work impacting on Holbeck and the surrounding area for over a decade. It was this, along with concerns about the vulnerability and safety of women selling sex on street that led to the introduction of the Managed Approach in 2014.
It was designed to restrict activity to night-time, non-business hours within a light industrial zone to least affect local residents and businesses and to help women stay safer and better access support services. It also aims to build their confidence in reporting whenever they are targeted for violence to help identify and bring perpetrators to justice.
The Managed Approach operates fully within the law and breaches of the rules are met with a range of enforcement interventions, up to and including prosecutions.
The Safer Leeds Partnership has given a commitment that an independent review of the scheme will take place in 2019 once the further operational changes, which will be monitored, have had chance to bed in.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, said:
“Our approach to the Managed Approach is continually reviewed and evolving. We’ve been listening carefully to everyone affected and we’re acting on issues raised by intensifying our focus and putting in increased resources to address concerns.
“We recognise that there is still a lot of hard work to be done to lessen the impact of on-street sex work in and around the area. After listening very closely to local views we have revised our operational and policing strategy while also ensuring that meaningful support continues to be in place to help and safeguard those involved in street sex work.
“The extra resources will boost our presence further on the ground and enable faster responses to issues. All our new arrangements are being monitored to ensure they are achieving the desired impact. This will help inform our ongoing strategy and reinforce the undertaking we have given to local residents for an independent review in the coming year.”
Chief Supt Steve Cotter, Leeds District Commander, West Yorkshire Police, said:
“We remain convinced that this approach is the right one as it provides the best opportunity to safeguard the vulnerable women involved in street sex work; to limit the issues that impact on residents and businesses; and to reduce the level of street sex work in Leeds.
“Unfortunately this initiative has often been misportayed as a ‘legal red light zone’ or decriminalisation, when it has always been about using strategic enforcement to support wider partnership work to help women leave street sex work.
“This is a tactic we apply to other issues, such as city centre begging, where we recognise that those involved often have a range of complex needs and vulnerabilities, and that a wider partnership approach is needed to make any real progress.
“For more than a decade prior to the introduction of the managed approach there were repeated and concerted efforts by the police in Leeds to enforce our way out the situation, targeting sex workers and those seeking their services using the available criminal and civil legislation.
“This had very little impact on the level of street sex work or the issues it caused in communities. It also meant the police were the last people sex workers would turn to for help, and so offences against them went unreported leaving the offenders free to commit further crimes.
“That situation has changed dramatically under the managed approach and we now have significantly improved communication with the women which has led directly to offenders being convicted and imprisoned.
“The focus of policing today is very much on the issues where people are at the greatest risk of harm, such as child sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and serious sexual offences.
“Clearly the nature of street sex work makes it inherently dangerous and the women involved are often vulnerable. The police have been criticised for failing to protect vulnerable victims in the past and that is something I am keen not to see repeated here.
“At the same time, the residents and businesses of Holbeck are entitled to feel safe and to be protected from issues that impact on their quality of life.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle those issues and we now have additional officers in place who will be building on the work the local neighbourhood policing team has been doing.
“We will not allow crime or anti-social behaviour to go unchallenged and we encourage residents to keep reporting any incidents or concerns to us so we can take appropriate action to keep the community safe.”
Notes to editors:
Having listened closely to the views of residents, the Safer Leeds Partnership has previously increased local environmental budgets to further enhance cleansing in targeted areas seven days a week and provided additional resources to support the local community and businesses. Specialist support services have also been strengthened as the scheme progresses. The operational hours have also been adapted before to reflect community feedback.
A dedicated phone line (07534 309 568) is available for residents to report any Managed Approach related issues from Monday to Thursday, 7am -11pm and Friday to Sunday from 7am – midnight. Calls for any non-urgent matters outside of these hours should be made to 101.
For media enquiries please contact:
Leeds City Council press office, 0113 378 6007