Voice of Holbeck calls for a Managed Approach exit strategy

About 40 residents attended a meeting to discuss ending the managed approach to street sex work in Holbeck on Wednesday evening (July 21, 2021).

The “zone” element of the managed approach was suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic and as we reported, a decision was taken by Leeds City Council and Safer Leeds not to reinstate it. Community support from the Council Clean-up Team, Dedicated Police Team and Sex Workers from Basis Yorkshire and Project Joanna remain in place.

The meeting was hosted by the group The Voice of Holbeck and much of the meeting was devoted to rehearsing the group’s criticisms of the Independent review commissioned by Leeds City Council, which released its report a year ago.

The group called for a number of measures to be introduced now that the managed approach is complete, including:

  • A PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Ordinance) to give the police more powers to stop and impose fines on caterpillars
  • This will be supported by streetlight signs and a nationwide communication campaign to dissuade men from coming to Holbeck to buy sex.
  • Police will demand sidewalk robots to go to Elland Road Police Station the next day with car documents
  • Use of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras to identify caterpillars from a distance
  • Training and information for men who work in the neighborhood, including on construction sites to discourage them from buying sex

Inspector Lucy Leadbeater, who heads the South Leeds Community Policing Team, explained to the meeting that Holbeck has the largest police resource in the country dedicated to street sex work. She said the four police officers are not redeployed to other tasks such as public order events, but when you factor in work schedules, holidays, etc., they cannot provide 24-hour coverage. / 24 and 7/7. Gaps are filled by CPSOs who are occasionally redeployed. This means that when you call the dedicated phone number to report incidents (07534 309568), known locally as “bat phone”, you may not get an instant response. Officers may be interviewing a woman who has been the victim of a crime or dealing with a sidewalk robot for example.

She also defended her officers who have been seen eating or drinking in the community, explaining that all officers are encouraged to take their meal breaks in the community rather than returning to the police station. This allows them to gather informal information and reassure themselves.

Speaking to Councilor Angela Gabriel after the meeting, she explained that much of what The Voice of Holbeck was asking for was already in the works or delivered.

“Leeds City Council and Police are working on a PSPO for Holbeck, but it’s not a quick fix, there is a tremendous amount of work involved in preparing an application. But we understand why residents think it is taking too long. However, the PSPO would focus on street alcohol consumption with the aim of improving residents’ sense of security.

“Sidewalk crawlers are already required to come to the police station if caught. We don’t need ANPR cameras because the CCTV cameras the Council installed last year can easily detect license plates. We are also deploying training for the men who work in the region. “

Cllr Gabriel went on to explain that the women who still work in the area are known to Safer Leeds and their partner agencies. Every woman has a key worker and a plan of care, with the goal of helping and then quitting sex work.

“There is a weekly task meeting between various partners including the police, Forward Leeds (drug rehab) Basis, Joanna and others who ‘deal with’ each woman to help them out of prostitution. This high level of support for women is essential if we are to succeed in reducing the number of street sex workers in the region, ”she added.

The meeting also heard Natasha Wyer a neighborhood resident and former drug addict who has created a charity to help women get out of prostitution by offering a 12-month residential rehabilitation program outside the region.

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