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Vice girls return to Swindon’s beleaguered street
10:26am Friday 22nd July 2011 in News
ON THE LOOKOUT Pam Freegard, vice chairwoman of Broad Street Area Community Council, and secretary Kevin Leakey
SWINDON’S former red light district could be seeing a resurgence in prostitution problems.
It has been claimed sightings of prostitutes in the Broadgreen area are on the up and some are worried this could spell trouble for the area, which has been largely clear of the problem for years.
Kevin Leakey, who formally led a campaign to oust prostitutes from the area, was even approached in his own garden.
The self-employed 45-year-old, of Salisbury Street, said: “I was out watering my trees and I saw a woman walking down Bathurst Road waving at cars. I thought ‘I know what she’s up to’.
“I stood at my gate and watched her. As she got closer to me she asked what I was looking at.
“She asked me if I wanted her. I said no. I was just watering my trees, minding my own business.
“She started effing and blinding, telling me to go indoors.”
He then went out later that evening with wife Karen, to see what the situation was like on other streets. They were confronted by angry men and women on nearby Manchester Road, who thought the couple were undercover police.
“There was a prostitute walking down Manchester Road. We just stood there for a while watching what was going on,” said Mr Leakey.
“We’d been there about a quarter of an hour watching, and one of these girls walked up to us and bumped into Karen. Karen ignored her. But she turned around saying: “What’s your effing problem?”
“Another chappy came along, who I guess was her lookout. This kiddie came up and said what are we doing here? We said we were minding our own business. He thought we were undercover police.”
Coun Derique Montaut (Lab, Central), who has visited the area after being told of the incident, said: “Having driven through it, there’s clearly evidence there of prostitution within the area.
“What level it is, is hard to determine. It’s certainly getting worse. It’s a lot worse than what it was three years ago.”
Part-time shop assistant Pam Freegard, of Gladstone Street, said about a week and a half ago she saw a woman in high heels and a short skirt waving to traffic on the junction of Broad Street and County Road.
It was the first time in a while she had spotted any girls touting for business.
“I think the weather is probably to do with it, bringing them out more. They’re just a pain,” said the 74-year-old.
“It used to be very bad. We have a few here again. If it gets bad like it was before it would be a shame.”
Police are on the case
POLICE are aware of the problems in Broadgreen.
Town centre police sergeant Paul Saunders said: “If we get concerns raised by residents, we’ll look at those in conjunction with the people who run the operation. It may be the way we run it may change depending what the public say, and how we apply resources.”
The dedicated anti-prostitution mission Operation Dobbin is led by vice liaison officer PC Sophia McIntyre.
In an update to Broad Street Area Community Council, of which Mr Leakey is secretary, she wrote: “Op Dobbin has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of on-street sex workers in Swindon.
“When I was appointed to the position of Vice Liaison Officer in October 2008 there were 42 on-street sex workers who had worked at some point during the previous 12 months.
“The few that continue to sex work and who are not in treatment remain our priority targets and we are actively trying to engage them.
“If they continue to sex work and refuse help for their drug and alcohol addiction they are robustly policed.
“However, it is known that arresting sex workers for prostitution related offences, does not, on its own, solve the problem.
“Whilst any number of sex workers operating in the area is unacceptable, by adopting a consistent approach to deal with this issue Swindon police working in partnership with other agencies have had a significant impact and continue to tackle the anti-social behaviour associated with prostitution.“ She said two recent convictions for kerb crawling led to the offenders receiving fines of £360 and £600.
“This sends out a strong message, that kerb crawling will not be tolerated in Swindon and the consequences of doing so are severe,” she wrote.
A focus of crime
THE original red light district area of Swindon was around Station Road, but when the layout of the road changed in 1981, a number of the girls moved to Manchester Road.
A street watch group was formed, and residents began hanging around near the prostitutes and taking down the number plates of kerb-crawling cars.
In the late 2000s Operation Dobbin was launched by police, both to take prostitutes off the streets and offer them treatment for addictions to hard drugs. The police estimate that in October 2008 there were 42 on-street prostitutes in the area, but that at present there are only ‘a few’.
Prostitution aside, the area has endured more than its fair share of criminal problems.
It has been the scene of two of the most notorious crimes in Swindon in the last year - the most recent was the killing of Jose Pereira, who was stabbed to death on May 20 on Manchester Road.
Two men were arrested in connection with the incident, and Edino Carvalho, 23, of Plymouth Street, has been charged with murder.
Earlier this month, Andrew Carty, 47, of no fixed abode, admitted attempted murder after slashing and stabbing 31-year-old Michael King repeatedly on Manchester Road in a drug feud.
Eyes and ears of Swindon A NEW crime-busting patrol group has been formed to help police Swindon’s streets.
Made up of unpaid civilian volunteers, the Street Watch scheme had its first patrol last Tuesday around the Park South area.
But its organiser, retired army engineer Terence Hayward, said it is set to spread out across the town, including Broadgreen, once it gets more volunteers on board.
Although they do not actively intervene in incidents, he said they aim to be the eyes and ears of Swindon, collecting information to pass on to police.
“Our sole purpose is to observe and report what we see that’s of interest to police and improve the community safety-wise,” said the 79-year-old, of Burnham Road.
“We have got all the police telephone numbers, and they have a reporting book to report anything they see that isn’t correct.
“Basically, it’s a project that’s going to expand right through Swindon, keeping our streets safe so people can go out after 6pm and not stay in locking their doors, because that’s the state at the moment.
“The very fact there is somebody out there watching, helping and protecting them is very good.”
Ultimately, Mr Hayward, who served with the Royal Engineer Corps and 5th Royal Tank Regiment before becoming a civilian engineer, wants to have around 100 volunteers to be part of the scheme and among the areas he has in his sights is Broadgreen.
Many of the 20 volunteers he now has signed up are Nepalese ex-Ghurkas, and he came along to address a meeting of the Nepalese community at the Broadgreen Centre last week to explain the scheme to them.
And on the last patrol, two people they met on the street signed up.
“Prostitution is something solely in Manchester Road, and has been for many years. There have been various attempts to move it.
“You’ll never stamp it out. You’ve got to capture it and put it in the right place at the right time so no gangs are using women for their own gain.
“It’s not up to us to do the hard-core work like the ones that break the doors down. We’re there to give information of what we see and what we hear. You could say we’re the eyes and ears of Swindon.”
All volunteers must be vetted by police before they can join.
There are green forms in the town’s libraries which residents can use to put their names forward.