An operation aimed at safeguarding and gathering intelligence around sex work has been launched in Middlesbrough.
Operation Beech began on 20th January, with police working closely with local charity A Way Out to gather intelligence and help safeguard sex workers, who have recently been subjected to increased reports of violence. 35 sex buyers have already been disrupted, from both within and outside the Force area, since the operation began.
Officers will also be engaging with local residents in areas of Middlesbrough frequented by sex workers to understand the impact that this has on them and how to lessen this impact upon local communities.
Those who sell sex are often targets of violent crime, which can include physical and sexual attacks including rape. Evidence suggests that offenders deliberately target those who sell sex because they believe they will not report the crime to police.
Police will use the operation to help gather intelligence to support investigations into the related crimes and identify anyone responsible for exploitation.
Any sex buyers identified could be subjected to referral pathways such as restorative justice to help make them less likely to reoffend – although this is entirely dependent on the perpetrators background and whether this course of action would be appropriate.
Detective Inspector Dan Cook said: “We are taking a proactive approach with regards to engaging with sex workers to come up with long-term solutions to the challenges that are faced in order to safeguard vulnerable victims, reduce related violent crimes and help make the relevant areas safer for our communities.
“Regardless of their personal situation, we want to ensure that anyone who is a victim of a sexual offence or violence can feel comfortable and confident enough to come forward and report it; and to know that they will be fully supported throughout and any allegations thoroughly investigated.
“Sex workers are vulnerable and often suffer from addiction, homelessness, and face many challenges where sex work becomes their only option for financial support. They are often targeted by dangerous individuals. Every sex worker is entitled to safety, support and justice when they have been a victim of crime.
“We will also be speaking with local residents and offering them support as our communities can be greatly impacted by sex work and we want to ensure that our local communities report concerns to us aswell.”
Anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence or a violent crime is urged to report this to Cleveland Police on 101.