The last time you probably heard about prostitution in Ipswich was almost certainly in the aftermath of five women being killed by Steve Wright in 2006. The response has attracted less attention however, a multi-agency strategy was created in 2007 and implemented by the Make a Change team.
There was a recognition that the women involved had no choices and were often funding a serious drug habit. The strategy was developed to tackle the causes of prostitution with women being assisted with exit strategies and not prosecuted, more than 200 women were helped to avoid a life of prostitution, battle addictions and sexual exploitation. One charity even offered the town’s sex workers money to stay off the streets. At the same time a more punitive strategy was used to target those trying to enlist the women’s services; 140 kerb crawlers were arrested and 55 people suspected of trafficking and sexual coercion were arrested.
Local authorities now report that street prostitution has been virtually eliminated from Ipswich and this is a magnificent acheivement. The battle is not over and Suffolk County Council recognises this, the progress has been reviewed and goals renewed with plans to address off-street prostitution and sexual exploitation across the whole county.
This success is a fantastic example of effective rehabilitation working alongside sensible, targetted policing and lessons should be learned by other areas and is response to other types of social issues. I take my hat off to everyone involved.