Revealed: Redbridge Police’s new operation to tackle prostitution in Ilford Lane

Ilford Lane at dusk

Ilford Lane at dusk - Credit: Archant

Police are pledging to tackle the organised gangs running prostitutes on Ilford Lane by ploughing additional resources into a wide ranging operation.

After a spike in complaints during the general election and a fiery public meeting with angry residents, officers are launching the new campaign which they hope will stop the sex trade in Redbridge’s red light district.

Based from Ilford Police Station, in High Road, the partnership will incorporate police from the tri-borough area, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham Councils and outreach charities.

The Recorder sat down for an exclusive interview with Sgt Matt Taylor, who leads the neighbourhood policing operation in Ilford Lane, to discuss the plans.

“We want to make it clear that we are committed to tackling this criminality,” he said.

“All of the officers who have joined the team have done so voluntarily, taking on shifts until 4am, because they want to solve the situation.”

And Sgt Taylor was quick to make clear that his detectives are targeting the pimps and criminals which organise and use the prostitutes, and not the girls themselves.

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“We want to offer them routes out of prostitution,” Sgt Taylor explained

“We want to engage with them and educate them, and we working with lots of outreach groups to do this.

“The criminals that control the women, that’s where our investigation is focusing on.”

Sgt Taylor said police know the gangs are “organised”, and detectives were gathering intelligence on them at the moment.

He also revealed officers had been seconded from the Romanian police force to help the operation, as a lot of the girls and pimps are thought to hail from the eastern European country.

“We won’t just be focusing on Ilford Lane, but also the surrounding streets where we know the criminality occurs,” Sgt Taylor continued.

“Last week we confiscated two vans with mattresses in the back, which had been left in residential roads.”

Another strand of the new campaign is busting the customers.

Insp Lee Canter, the head of Redbridge Safer Neighbourhoods, commented: “I would like to send a strong message out to those who intend to use the services of sex workers as we will seek to prosecute you and if convicted your picture may be published in the local papers.”

Residents have complained of finding people having sex in their gardens, used condoms left outside their houses and gangs of men hanging around the square by Mayville Road.

Sgt Taylor pledged to hit the customers with “extra officers” carrying out action days with the local authority.

“These have been particularly effective in targeting users, and, with intelligence, last week we banned several from the area for 48 hours,” he explained.

The leading officer also wants to focus on better integration with the community, and open up more lines of dialogue between police and residents.

“What we found was that people didn’t know where to go with information when they saw men soliciting the girls.

“So people can email us at, follow us on Twitter or subscribe for updates.”

Sgt Taylor and his team have compiled a survey about crime in Ilford Lane, which they want residents to respond to.

“We will get out on foot more, it’s simple but it works,” he added.

“There will also be high visibility police in the area and officer presence in the community.”

The new team are clearly facing a tough challenge – there have been prostitutes working on Ilford Lane for years – but you cannot fault Sgt Taylor’s dedication to the cause.

“I’ve worked a lot of late nights before and I’ll be doing many more,” he said.

“It has been a challenging time for policing in London, with Grenfell Tower and the terrorist attacks, however officers are working very hard to stop this.

“We are committed to tackling this issue.”

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