Police hit back at claims their strategy puts prostitutes’ lives at risk

A 25 year old Romanian woman has died after she was stabbed on Ilford Lane last night. Police have c

A 25 year old Romanian woman has died after she was stabbed on Ilford Lane last night. Police have closed a section of the road from the turning to Loxford Lane up to the corner of Hunters Road. - Credit: Archant

Police hit back this week over claims that their strategy to combat prostitution was putting the women’s lives at risk.

Part of their strategy to reduce the problem, particularly in Ilford Lane, Ilford, involves a dispersal zone meaning that groups cannot congregate.

Critics say this means that the prostitutes have to work alone putting them in greater danger. The claims come after Mariana Popa, who worked as a prostitute in Ilford Lane, was stabbed to death on October 29.

Det Supt Ellie O’Connor said: “Prostitutes make an informed decision if they want to work on the streets. If they chose to operate, they make their choice on how they do it. It’s not for police to tell them how to operate.”

Operation Clearlight was launched late in 2012 and involves police targeting kerb crawlers, working with charities and doing undercover patrols.

Speaking to a national newspaper, Chris Armitt, who is the national police lead on prostitution, said there should be a review of enforcement as police operations can sometimes be counterproductive.

He said: “We are not going to enforce our way out of this problem. I feel it would be good to allow a small group of women to work together. I think the disadvantages of working alone outweigh the advantages.”

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But Ms O’Connor said that they did not only focus on enforcement.

“We have no plans to stop Operation Clearlight,” she said. “Enforcement is only one of several strands. It’s not necessarily targeting sex workers.

“We are trying to catch more kerb crawlers to make it uneconomic for prostitution to happen.”

She said that they were working closely with the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London and Redbridge Street Pastors.

“We are trying to offer the women an exit strategy and we are also doing community work such as installing gates to stop them going into gardens,”

Ms O’Connor said.

“It’s not a quick fix and clearly prostitution is affecting the community. Residents have told us that they are happy with out work so far.”

Farooq Shah, 20, was charged with Ms Popa’s murder and will appear at the Old Bailey on January 28 for a plea and case management hearing.