Monday, August 26, 2002

Europe Intelligence Wire

Anger as vice girls back on Leith streets

PROSTITUTES have moved into a new area of Leith and residents claim they are being accosted and intimidated by the women and their pimps.

People living in the Restalrig Road, Leith Links and The Shore areas have complained to police that the women have begun touting for business. Some residents have complained they have been threatened by pimps who are standing in the streets with Rottweiler dogs and others have said they have been harassed by the women looking for clients.

A meeting was held between residents and police who are believed to have told the angry crowd they would continue to crack down heavily on girls who solicit.

One local resident in East Hermitage Place, directly opposite Leith Links, said the prostitutes were "fairly blatant" in plying for trade.

The woman, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said: "I know of one young woman who was walking along with her baby and she was surrounded by them and pestered. It was frightening for her and is not the kind of thing people want to see, especially in a tourist or residential area." Another resident in Restalrig Road said he had been accosted by two women when he got out of his car.

"They asked me if I was looking for business. It's terrible — you can't even go into your own house without being stopped by them."

The resident said the women regularly gathered round the phone box at the bottom of Restalrig Road.

"I'm sure they use that phone box for business. It's not every night but most nights they are here and they will keep on doing it until they are stopped."

The tolerance zone in Salamander Street was shut down by police last November after an ongoing battle with local residents.

A councillor confirmed reports the girls were now openly plying for trade again. He said: "The women are back to working in twos and threes. Pimps are out with the women now to protect them and we have heard of people being harassed and threatened by them."

The source added: "The people are looking to turn some of those streets into a neighbourhood watch area and many of the locals are getting very uptight about the prostitutes being around."

Ruth Morgan-Thomas, from the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project (Scotpep), said since the closure of the tolerance zone almost a year ago the women had dispersed across a wide area and some had even moved to other cities. She added: "There has been heavy policing of the Leith area and the women were shifting to different areas to avoid being arrested by police.

"Street prostitution will never be eradicated and the city has not done enough in terms of looking at the reasons why women are on the streets and has not done anything about looking at women's options out of the sex industry."

Ms Morgan-Thomas said Edinburgh's unique tolerance policy had created a safer environment for both the women and the local community and the reality of losing tolerance was beginning to show, with more attacks on prostitutes and fewer of them being officially reported to the police by the women — making it more difficult for police to monitor the sex industry.

She said: "When you give up the system like the one that was operated in the city, you give up the ability to monitor pimping, racketeering and drug pushing that exists with street prostitution. When we had the tolerance zone, Edinburgh did not have those problems on any large scale."

Councillor Phil Attridge, whose ward takes in The Shore and Leith Links area, said: "I have received several complaints from local residents and I'm very concerned for people in the area.

"There are lots of people who are scared to go out because of it. It is totally unacceptable and people should not have to be worried about prostitutes when they go out."

Local businessman, James Fraser, who manages the 100-year-old Links Tavern pub on Restalrig Road said: "I have heard they are using this area and a lot of the locals are not happy and I certainly won't be allowing the prostitutes to use this pub."

Mr Fraser said the real problem was not just the women themselves but the associated crime that inevitably follows their trade which worried people. Lothian and Borders Police refused to comment on the allegations from the residents, but a police spokeswoman said: "The public meeting was part of ongoing dialogue with the community and was just one of the regular meetings every station has within the community."

Europe Intelligence Wire — 08/21/02, p. 7

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Created: September 4, 2002
Last modified: September 9, 2002
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