New Redbridge police inspector promises to take on sex traffickers
- Credit: Archant
A new officer has been appointed to deal with prostitution, one of Redbridge’s biggest problems. Chloe Farand caught up with her
A new strategy to tackle prostitution in the borough will see the police’s focus shift from the sex workers to the abusers, traffickers and exploiters of the sex trade.
Having taken on the challenging task to tackle prostitution in the borough, Insp Elise Gellatley, who joined Redbridge Police in May, spoke to the Recorder about her plan to crack down on criminal activities around sex workers.
Since the 2012 London Olympic Games, Redbridge police have been confronted with growing numbers of organised prostitution on the streets and in brothels. Earlier this year, a freedom of information request revealed Redbridge police had cautioned the highest number of women for soliciting in the capital – 639 between 2013 and 2015.
But under her leadership, Insp Gellatley said the emphasis would fall on those “abusing, controlling, trafficking and exploiting” sex workers rather than targeting prostitutes themselves.
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This approach is part of a two-fold strategy, which will see police efforts focus on enforcement and the provision of support and advice for sex workers willing to exit the trade.
“I am not here to judge sex workers and I am aware that sex work polarises society. But when the demand is not there, there is a way for the women and men to leave prostitution.”
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Operating in both a covert and overt way with as little as two to a dozen officers, Insp Gellatley’s team aims to disrupt clients while engaging in a relationship of trust with prostitutes.
“We are trying to build communication with the sex workers so they feel able to tell us if any criminal activity takes place against them. This could be physical violence, sexual violence and trafficking, for example.”
Describing prostitution in the borough as “serious”, Insp Gellatley said being aware it was an issue for residents and her team would be concentrating on the area around Ilford Lane.
“We are looking at intelligence that is sent through to us by people, who think there is a brothel or concerns about things happening on the street. We need to identify the people involved who are not necessarily standing on the street,” she said.
Keen to paint the whole picture of prostitution in the borough, she praised the existing work being done by the council in partnership with a multitude of outreach groups.
“I feel confident in our strategy and I want to get the message out to the community and explain what we are doing,
“I feel privileged to be do this role. I am enjoying it but I am not taking it lightly.
“Some of these men and women have quite horrific stories and as a human and as a Met Police officer I want to listen to them and take them seriously,” she added.