Residents in an area of the city where a pioneering approach to manage street sex work is being tried out are demanding an urgent rethink over a policy which they say is blighting their daily lives.
About 30 community protesters gathered outside Holbeck Moor Park to draw attention to their plight, where they waved placards and encouraged motorists to beep their horns in support during this evening’s rush hour.
Teenage schoolgirls have been propositioned in the street, sexual acts are performed in people’s gardens and the caretaker of a local school has to comb the grounds for discarded condoms and needles before each school day, residents in Holbeck said.
They said they were upset by a lack of action in response to their concerns by local authorities, as the protest group vowed to continue to hold more public demonstrations.
Taking part in today’s protest - the third one to date - were parents and grandparents who held aloft signs bearing slogans such as ‘We’re not safe here’, ‘We are the victims’ and ‘Keep our kids safe’, as young children played in the park behind them.
One local resident Helen Foster, 41, said: “It’s not fair for the kids in the area. There’s fighting in the streets and people are getting no sleep.”
Eighty-year-old Doreen Waters, who has lived locally for 30 years, said: “The community is having to deal with drug dealers and pimps. It’s attracting the worst sort of people. The authorities haven’t given us any evidence that it is working.”
Read more: Protest staged in Leeds 'legal red light zone' as Holbeck residents urge end to street sex work
Sean Sturman, 58, who runs a community Facebook page, said: “I’ve seen photo after photo of disgusting behaviour - people doing things in gardens when children are waking up in the morning. Something needs to be done. It’s now creeping up into Beeston and Cottingley.”
And Laura Walton, 39, who runs a local shop, said: “I can’t be in the shop on my own. My daughter has been approached in the street twice. We don’t go anywhere alone. It’s really quite frightening.”
Introduced by community safety partnership Safer Leeds in October 2014, the ‘managed approach’ allows sex workers to operate in parts of Holbeck during certain hours.
It aims to get more of the women involved in the trade to engage with support services.
Safer Leeds has previously said that it regularly meets with partners and stakeholders to assess the ongoing impact.