“Stop Pretending” – that is the message from defiant residents of Holbeck as they staged another protest this evening against the controversial managed red light zone and called for the authorities to admit it is not working.
They say it has attracted more prostitutes and more clients from other parts of Leeds, more drugs, more crime and is becoming dangerous with reports that even children are being approached.
Incidents in the last week include a 13-year-old girl stood at the bus stop in her school uniform being asked by a man in a car if she was working, a grandmother with a baby being asked how much for an hour with the child and people having sex at bus stops and in gardens.
Local resident Gemma Lynch had to drag her eight-year-old daughter away from people taking drugs in the street and the walk to school is regularly littered with drug paraphernalia and used condoms.
She said: “We are being told prostitutes are sent from other areas by police to the managed zone because they won’t get prosecuted, extra men come because they won’t get prosecuted and it is attracting extra problems, drink and drugs. It is not fair, there is no off button and you can see why we are angry.”
More than 30 people lined the pavement at Holbeck Moor during today's rush hour to highlight their concerns.
Ms Lynch, 35, added: “Because it has been going on so long and spread so far, we don’t think it can be contained anymore. We want them to admit that the zone is flawed and stop pretending that it is working.”
The protest comes after locals, councillors and MP Hilary Benn called for Leeds City Council to commission an independent review to shed light on whether the zone in Holbeck is working.
Introduced by community safety partnership Safer Leeds in October 2014, the scheme allows street sex workers to operate in parts of Holbeck during certain hours, with the aim of getting more of the women to engage with support services.
But, in a letter to Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake, Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central, claimed the rules of the deal are not being stuck to by some sex workers in the area. It read: “My strong sense is that we cannot carry on as we are. I would therefore like to propose that the council and the police commission an independent review of the managed area and ask it to make recommendations about its future and changes that need to be made.”
The council says work on the managed approach is under ‘continuous review’