British politicians and the police seem to relish
in making a real bad situation out of a problem of their own making. Why can't girls be
allowed to work in a safe and legal environment? It would solve most of the problems
overnight and in particular would resolve the problem of innocent people being persecuted
by cops with a shitty attitude.
Based on an article in
The street corner
has been carefully chosen: Bea is easily visible to men driving up from every direction,
there is space for them to park close to where she stands and the street lights allow her
to see their faces as clearly as possible.
Bea spent three nights last week on this street corner, waiting for kerb crawlers to
ask her for sex. The petite 46-year-old blonde in her short, black skirt looked like any
other prostitute on the streets of Britain but in fact she is actually a real lowlife. She
has been a policewoman for 26 years and, for two years, has been a decoy prostitute for
the Met's newest, and most successful, undercover operation.
The police have long wanted increased powers to target kerb crawlers, they were finally
awarded the power to arrest offenders. You can't imagine the difference it makes; for
the first time, we have a chance of making a difference, said Chris Bradford,
superintendent at the Met's clubs and vice unit. Now local boroughs can call us in
when their residents report a problem and, in a few short months, this has become one of
our most successful operations.
There are six women like Bea working in six areas across London. In the past year
alone, they have arrested more than 430 kerb crawlers. Before the law was changed, there
were fewer than 600 convictions each year across the whole country.
The operation has been one of the Met's most tightly guarded secrets. But last week The
Observer was allowed to accompany the police on an operation in east London.
Dotted around the surrounding housing estates, four unmarked arrest cars and one marked
police car waited with their engines ticking over. Back at the police station, a team put
the last touches to the dedicated custody unit, ready to charge the men and issue them
with their bail conditions.
A smartly dressed young man in the driving seat is oblivious to anyone except a lowlife
called Susan, who is leaning down towards the passenger seat window. What do you want?'
she asked. 'I saw you standing there and thought you were familiar,' he replied. 'Yeah. So
what do you want?' she asked again. He wanted 'business', but luckily for him he won't be
drawn on specifics.
The cops apparently need specific requests as this is the best evidence to make
absolutely sure there's no slip-up in the court. Susan had barely returned to her post
when a smart red Audi U-turned to stop just feet away. The driver, an elderly man, is
happy to be specific: he wants French - that is, oral sex - without a condom. Ensuring
that his predilection has been clearly captured on tape, Susan declined his offer and
walked swiftly away, silently but instantly flanked by two safety officers.
The nearby police car turned on its flashing blue light and the punter pulled over to
the side of the road to let us pass. Instead, we drew up parallel, signalling him to stop.
He did so, suddenly noticing the unmarked car in his rearview mirror with a start of
You can see the cogs working in their head as they realise what's happening,
said Bruce Martin, a police constable and trainer for the Met's vice team, as he slung on
his jacket and opened the car door. Some try to deny it, some men attack us, some weep
and some beg us to let them go because of their families or social position. After a
while, though, most decide that they want to get it over with as soon as possible.
Martin strolled up to the Audi: Could you come out here, please, sir? he
asked. The driver - 70 years old, got out of his car wearing an expression of bafflement.
Quickly hemmed in by five plain-clothed officers, his rights are read out to him.
have just solicited a woman who was an undercover police officer, said the arresting
officer. Your conversation was recorded and you are being arrested for kerb crawling'
The driver exploded.. I've been set up, he shouted. Anticipating trouble, the
officers move in closer, pinning his arms and slipping on a pair of handcuffs. It's
pathetic, This is a massive waste of police resources when there are terrorists all over
London. I can't believe you're wasting your time doing this.
Although it is efficient, the kerb- crawling operation is a controversial one, with
experts such as Dr Belinda Brookes-Gordon, Britain's leading expert in
prostitution-related research, who has advised the NHS and the Government, numbered among
its harshest critics. This law makes prostitutes more likely to be attacked It means
that punters will spend less time in known red-light districts, forcing prostitutes to
move out into unfamiliar areas where they will have less chance to assess how dangerous
the men could be. It's an expensive and labour-intensive operation that does more harm
The police officers admit, too, that the long-term effect operation is questionable:
is a drop in the ocean, admitted Bradford. It makes a difference for a short
while, then incidents begin to creep back up. This scheme might not be perfect, but at
least now kerb crawlers might think twice before going out.