Still trapped in vice

Councillor pushes for area 'clean-up' By Richard Edwards A LEEDS councillor whose ward includes a well-known red-light zone has welcomed the fresh approach towards vice in Leeds.

.Mohammed Rafique (Lab, Chapel Allerton) has been pushing for action on prostitution since he was elected last June.

He said he had received several complaints about Spencer Place and Avenue Hill, Chapeltown, once-popular spots for prostitutes and kerb crawlers that are in the heart of his patch.

Chapeltown's popularity with prostitutes has recently declined, and much of Leeds's sex trade now operates from Holbeck, but Coun Rafique said the streets are still a cause for concern.

He said: "There is a mosque in Spencer Place, there are two schools at either side, there is a health centre and a Sure Start centre due to open soon and there is a church at the junction of Harehills Avenue.

"It is difficult to think of a more inappropriate place for prostitutes to be, a place where thousands of people, including hundreds of children, go every week. Innocent people have been disturbed and propositioned which is totally unfair and something we can not tolerate."

Last Thursday, the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed that Leeds City Council is seeking a "joined-up" approach to the city's growing prostitution problem.

The debate will include the possibility of setting up a prostitution management, or tolerance zone –although this was ruled an illegal non-starter by Leeds's top vice cop Superintendent Peter Nicholson.

Coun Rafique said: "It is a debate I have been calling for and a debate I welcome. Police enforcement and help for the girls must go hand in hand. We need to find the money as a local authority to give some extra to the police, who I think are doing an excellent job with the resources they have, and help the girls get off the streets, off drugs and into employment."

Coun Rafique said he had concerns about a tolerance zone, but welcomed the debate about it.

He added: "Let's have a look at it. I am against it, and street prostitution is illegal, but we must talk about these things."

A Spencer Place resident, who asked not to be named, said he had not seen a prostitute in the area for about a month.

He said: "General cleanliness and upkeep of the kerbs has improved. The local park is cleaner, we are making progress. I would welcome any initiative that hinders the exploitation of women to pick them up on one or two key streets.

"I also support anything that increases resources available to those working to help these women."

Members of the city council's neighbourhood and housing scrutiny board will debate prostitution in Leeds on March 15.

REVELATION: Mateusz Klich in action. PIC: Tony Johnson

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