Redbridge top for prostitution cautions in London

Street pastors held their Light in the Night event to show support for sex workers in Ilford Lane, I

Street pastors held their Light in the Night event to show support for sex workers in Ilford Lane, Ilford - Credit: Archant

A leading outreach worker has said police tactics undermine the safety of prostitutes, after figures showed Redbridge officers issued 150 more cautions than any other borough.

A freedom of information request shows police cautioned 639 women for soliciting between 2013 and 2015 – considerably higher than Tower Hamlets and Westminster who came second and third.

Police in Wandsworth, Southwark and Redbridge’s neighbours Havering issued two cautions for prostitutes in that three year period.

Redbridge police also arrested the highest number of men for soliciting prostitutes in that time – 106 arrests out of London’s total of 234.

The majority of boroughs did not arrest anyone.

But outreach worker Michelle Harewood does not think this shows the borough has the biggest red light district in the capital.

“It is down to the tactics of the police, but I do not think they help the safety of the women,” she said.

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Over the past few years Redbridge officers have cracked down on the borough’s red light district in Ilford Lane.

Mrs Harewood said: “Once the punters see the flashing lights they go down the side roads. It takes the women away from their safety net of CCTV cameras and other girls.”

She continued: “The arrests don’t drive the punters out of the borough. We have had two dangerous incidents in the last few years.”

Mrs Harewood was referring to the fatal stabbing of prostitute Mariana Popa in 2013, and the slashing of outreach worker Sophia Burley a year later.

“I was with Sophia and the girls when it happened,” Mrs Harewood explained.

“The first thing they said to me after we had been to the police station was ‘are you coming back, we need you’.”

Redbridge Police have been contacted for comment but did not repond before we went to press.