National Ugly Mugs are very concerned about the heavy enforcement action targeting both on and off street sex workers in The London Borough of Redbridge.
We feel that such action could lead to sex workers being displaced and working in areas in which it is less safe for them to do so. This increased vulnerability means that sex workers are more likely to fall victim to dangerous offenders, as was Mariana Popa; a 24 year old woman who worked in the borough and was murdered in 2014 during a period of similar heavy enforcement from police. Following this tragedy the police and council were keen to build trust with sex workers and adopted a model which reflected this - encouraging them to report and linking them in with support services where necessary.
However in 2018, under pressure from vocal members of the community, local policing has again taken a heavy enforcement approach resulting in the current Public Space Protection Order that allows both police and council enforcement officers powers to issue on the spot fines to those soliciting sex workers on the borough’s streets.
We are concerned that the PSPOs will undermine the trust which has been built between police and sex workers in the borough and cause a decrease in the reporting of crime committed against sex workers, which is already very low at the local and national level.
Very few of the thousands of sex workers who report crimes to NUM are willing report these incidents to the police directly and lack of trust is one of the main reasons for this. NUM are concerned that it would take another murder or high-profile violent incident to see policing shift back to a victim-centred approach. We are therefore keen to work with the police and the council (as we have done previously) to ensure that all voices and views on this complex issue are heard, especially the often silenced voices of sex workers themselves.
We are available to share learning and good practice to ensure that more lives are not lost.
Our mission is to end violence against sex workers through improving their safety and ensuring that dangerous offenders prosecuted; we firmly believe that both of these increase the safety of communities as a whole.
We need to learn from the past do everything in our powers to ensure that no more lives are lost as a result of heavy enforcement policies, and we invite all parties to engage with NUM to develop less harmful strategies that benefit not just sex workers but their entire communities.
Sex workers die as a result of stigma, displacement, criminalization and ineffective policy.
Policy, Police and Training Lead