Councillor aims to push Holbeck prostitution issue up political agenda

A local councillor has said she is determined to raise the issue of prostitution in Holbeck higher up the political agenda in Leeds.

Beeston and Holbeck councillor Angela Gabriel said that the issue of prostitutes congregating in the area near St Matthew’s Community Centre and Domestic Street was a complex one – and something that required debate.

Councillor Gabriel said she was aiming to get the issues debated at the council’s inner south area committee and get it wider recongnition on a city-wide scale with the Safer Leeds initiative. Coun Gabriel said:

“Nobody in life sets out to be a prostitute. You don’t do it because you want to do it. It’s somebody’s daughter that we’re talking about – they’re getting in strangers’ cars, being driven away to God knows where. They can get abused, beaten up … who knows what else.

“I spoke to a couple of them. Both had university degrees, both were in relationships but had got in with the wrong crowd, had started taking drugs. The point is that they made mistakes, but they weren’t uneducated. They were desperate people who’d made some wrong choices in life.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to help them. The pimp or boyfriend that controls them doesn’t want them getting off their drug dependency, so you’ve got that aspect to battle with too.

“The police come in and push them away, but more girls then come back into the area. We need to look at breaking the cycle, ensuring that the girls get proper support – and getting Safer Leeds to understand that it’s not just a local issue, it’s a wider one. We need to put pressure on.

“I would urge residents to report it more. Some seem to be very accepting of it and don’t report it.”

Issues residents face include local women being asked for sex by men as they walked down the street, local men being constantly propositioned by prostitutes, car horns being blown in the early hours.

Coun Gabriel said she was intending to write to some local residents encouraging people to report prostitution when they see it. She said problems can be reported on 0845 6060606.

Police priority

One of the main priorities for the Holbeck Neighbourhood Policing Team is to reduce prostitution on St Matthews Street, Pleasant Terrace, Pleasant Street, Pleasant Place, Stocks Hill, Bridge Road and Holbeck Towers, daily between 4pm and 1am.

A notice placed on the NPT website earlier this month says:

“Prostitution within the Holbeck area causes local residents great concern and Holbeck NPT regularly receives community intelligence regarding those involved.

“It is the aim of the NPT staff to engage and support those involved in prostitution to get them out of the life style which places them in extremely vulnerable positions. Sex workers who do not engage are liable to arrest due to the impact their lifestyle has on the local community.

“On Wednesday 5 October officers from Holbeck and City NPT conducted an operation in Holbeck to deal with the issues of prostitution. As a result of that operation a 21 year old female and 28 year old female were arrested on suspicion of breach of ASBO and loitering / soliciting for the purposes of prostitution respectively. The 21 year old female was remanded to court the next day while the other was given a police caution.

“Also arrested was a 32 year old male for kerb crawling. He also received an adult caution. During the operation a further three females were given home office cautions.”

South Leeds Life has spoken to some of the girls in Holbeck and will include the interviews in the January/February edition of our magazine. In the meantime, what’s your take on ths issue? What can be done to tackle it?  Are legalised brothels the answer? Have your say in the comments section below.