Residents of Luton High Town are crying “enough is enough”, as they demand the authorities tackle the area’s prostitution problem.
The community in the Paths Estate area is calling for action as, despite years of campaigning, they claim problems in the neighbourhood have increased.
Residents say their lives are being made a misery, with reports of used condoms, excrement, needles, tampons and protective blue gloves littering the streets where children walk to school, and kerb crawlers driving round the roads.
They say prostitutes smoke cannabis and Class A drugs on the benches near Milliners Court where elderly residents live, and that the women are looking for business in the Paths Estate area every day - even during the daytime - taking clients into alleyways, a rat run of garages, bin chutes, or even front gardens.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed: “To be quite honest, we go to all these High Town residents’ meetings with the council and police but I don’t think people believe us - or they think we’re exaggerating.
“There is a video someone took of a prostitute in a Paths Estate alleyway giving a gentleman oral sex.
“That was on December 30 - at 2pm in the afternoon!
“We’ve got pictures and videos of what goes on.
“In 2014 there was a police purge, but then it fizzled out. Although I don’t think you can blame the police; they haven’t got the resources.
“The authorities shouldn’t just encourage the men to stop paying for sex, they need to help the girls, too, otherwise the girls will just go somewhere else in town.
“Some of them want money for drugs. Others like the job - they’ve been doing it for years; they’re in their 40s, 50s.
“But now it’s worse than ever, and nothing is done.”
She added: “I’m worried because there are children and parents who walk through the estate to St Matthew’s Primary School. I can just imagine a child running ahead and picking up a needle.”
Another resident claimed: “So many people round here are angry and worried.
“Some of the girls do drugs near Milliners Court and you hear them crawling on their hands and knees. They’re screaming and shouting - ‘It’s five pounds’, others are comatose on drugs.
“Last year, my granddaughter came to visit and I took her to get some sweets, but as we were coming back there was a prostitute outside wearing just a man’s shirt and nothing else.
“My granddaughter said: ‘Nanny, nanny, did you see that lady’s bum?’
“I won’t take my granddaughter out anymore.”
A resident who has lived near Butterworth Path for 15 years, said: “I can hear people having sex outside my bathroom window and I go out afterwards and find the condoms.
“There’s also a pimp who walks about whistling for the girls and they yell back. We get woken up at any time of the night.
“I’ve suggested CCTV, or double yellow lines to stop kerb crawlers. When will something be done?”
Gavin Shuker, MP for Luton South and chair of Luton Against Sexual Exploitation, said: “The sex trade hugely damages our local community - and further damages many vulnerable women who require very specific support to exit prostitution.
“The law doesn’t help us solve this. I want to make it easier to prosecute those people who perpetuate this problem in the first place and make paying for sex illegal to drastically reduce the demand for sexual exploitation.”
A Luton Borough Council spokesman, said: “Since we began working with our partners in the Community Safety Partnership five years ago we have been able to help 72 women leave the sex trade and engaged with a further 61 who had been previously unknown to us.
“We are aware that we have not made as much progress as we would have liked, but are continuing to work with partners to review progress and are preparing to launch an Adult Exploitation Strategy which has three key aims: bringing offenders of sexual exploitation to justice; targeting and shutting down locations where exploitation occurs; and a huge focus on prevention.”
Sergeant John Killick, who leads Bedfordshire Police’s response to tackle Luton’s on-street sex trade, said: “We treat this complex issue seriously, and work tirelessly with our partners to address this problem in Luton in order to protect our communities and reduce associated criminality.
“The force’s priority is to identify sex buyers and traffickers, and keep the victims of the sex trade safe. Those involved are often victims of sexual exploitation due to a range of vulnerabilities, or are victims of exploitation and modern day slavery.
“Therefore, we would encourage people to come forward with reports of prostitution and any anti-social behaviour connected to it, as each report allows us to build a better picture of this issue across our town.
“We are continuing to identify and close properties used for prostitution, and prosecute those involved in the sex trade. We will also continue to crack down on those who exploit vulnerable people for personal gain. We are working with those who are vulnerable to offer them a way out, and give them a chance of a better life.”
The force is also supporting the Luton Against Sexual Exploitation (LASE) initiative launched by Gavin Shuker and Azalea late last year.
Cllr Malcolm, said: “As local councillors we meet with the neighbourhood policing team every three months to set three priority areas for them to focus on - the on-street sex trade is always at the top of our list.
“Since we began working with our partners in the Community Safety Partnership five years ago we have been able to help 72 women leave the sex trade and engaged with a further 61 who had been previously unknown to us. Measures to place CCTV at key locations have been taken and together with the police we have supported a number of closure orders on premises at the same time holding regular meetings with residents.
“We are aware that we have not made as much progress as we would have liked, but are continuing to work with partners to review progress and are preparing to launch an Adult Exploitation Strategy which takes a town-wide approach to tackling this issue and has three key aims: bringing offenders of sexual exploitation to justice; targeting and shutting down locations where exploitation occurs; and a huge focus on prevention.
“While we make issues surrounding the sex trade our number one priority in the area, we are aware that other related matters are of concern to residents too. Antisocial littering is completely unacceptable as not only does it make the area look unattractive but it can also attract vermin that pose a threat to health. When we are able to identify those who have been leaving litter we will prosecute them and we encourage people to report littering online at www.luton.gov.uk/myaccount”