Debate rages over managed Leeds red light area experiment

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Residents have been urged to call police if they see sex workers near their homes after complaints over a “managed” red light zone in Leeds.

As the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on Saturday, the city council, police and charities have joined forces on a groundbreaking 12-month experiment to allow the women to operate freely in an industrial area of Holbeck.

A sex worker in Holbeck

A sex worker in Holbeck

The scheme, which was quietly launched last October, came after concerns that years of attempts to deal with the issue by taking legal action had failed to reduce levels of prostitution or associated problems.

Under the pilot, sex workers can ply their trade without fear of police action between 7pm and 7am as long as they stay within the designated area and abide by certain rules.

Council and police chiefs say a fall in complaints from residents and an increase in the number of reported crimes against sex workers are evidence the project is working.

But many say the women continue to work outside the managed area – and have refuted claims they were consulted before the came into operation.

Michael Scott, 70, of Runswick Place in Holbeck, said: “I’m totally outraged by it. We weren’t notified about it happening and we still see the women hanging around this area.

“They’ll stop the traffic – flashing themselves and touting for business. This managed area hasn’t changed anything.”

His wife, Jackie, 49, said: “It’s not right for parents to be walking their children through the area and seeing this sort of thing going on.”

In a post on Facebook, Beeston and Holbeck councillor Angela Gabriel said things had been getting “worse and worse” before the managed area was introduced.

“Residents should not have to put up with it taking place on their streets, in their gardens and constantly being propositioned as they go to and from their homes which is what was happening,” she said.

She added: “Residents have said that they have seen a significant improvement but we recognise there is still some activity taking place in the residential area and we would ask that you report this immediately to the police.”