Small number of sex workers return to Ipswich's streets, with police and council working to rehabilitate women, as 15th anniversary of Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright murders looms
A small number of sex workers have returned to Ipswich's streets in the last six months, officials have said as the 15th anniversary of the murders of five prostitutes looms.
Suffolk Police said, alongside officers from Ipswich Borough Council, they identified nine women who had been working the streets of the town in recent months, but after working with them, only a couple are still engaging in street sex work.
It comes as this weekend marks 15 years since the first of the 'Suffolk Strangler' Steve Wright's victims, 19-year-old Tania Nichol, disappeared. He was also found guilty of the murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Annette Nicholls, 29, and Paula Clennell, 24.
Supt Jane Topping said the number of sex workers they had identified in Ipswich in the last year was much smaller than at the time of the murders.
“In 2006 there were around 30 sex workers on the streets of Ipswich," she said.
“More recently, there were a much smaller number – around nine – and after some targeted engagement, only a couple remain now engaged in street sex work.
“After 2006 Suffolk was the first county in the country to look at ways to support women exploited for sex by providing help, support and rehabilitation for them to overcome the issues in their lives."
Supt Topping said the police and the council will continue to work with support agencies to 'ensure women get the required support to exit street sex work'.
“We want any woman who has been a victim of violence, exploitation or harassment to come to us. We do all we can to support them and bring the perpetrator to justice," she added.
“In areas where we know people have concerns about their safety we try to ensure we maintain a visible police presence.
"There will also be some occasions where people will not realise that plain-clothes officers are working in the area to keep people safe.”
Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for community protection at Ipswich Borough Council, said, after the murders in 2006, the authority led a campaign with the police with the aim of eradicating street prostitution - an aim it achieved.
But, he said, there had been sporadic reports of sex workers on the streets over the last 15 years, which they dealt with as they were reported.
"In the last six to nine months, we have had reports of more women - a group of women who appeared to be working certain streets in the London Road area - reported by local residents and councillors," Mr Ross said.
"The police have identified a maximum of eight to nine women and we have now identified them all and we're working with them all and trying to provide them rehabilitation and helping to get them off the streets."
The majority are working with them, and officials continue to work with the others still working on the streets to help them.
"We continue to work with the others to get them off the drugs, as that's the main reason they're doing that," Mr Ross added.
He said the drug dependency is a 'key link' between those who were street sex workers in the town in 2006 and those today.
The council is taking measures to help make sure women feel safe in the town, with it announcing yesterday it has secured money from the Government's Safer Streets Fund to install more CCTV cameras in the town and to provide personal alarms to women in the area.
Mr Ross said these are just some of the schemes being put in place between now and Easter, as broader questions about women's safety have come into the national spotlight in recent months.
"I'm sure a lot of women don't feel safe but Ipswich is a safe place. We have to prove it with actions," Mr Ross added.
The councillor said there would be a bigger police presence in Ipswich in coming months as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
"Ipswich is safe but I understand that some don't feel safe, it's up to me and others to show practical reasons why the town is safe," he said.