Sex workers are reporting fewer crimes to police and West African victims of sex trafficking risk being overlooked.
That's the conclusion of the report I have produced in response to a request by the Mayor of London to look into the policing of sex trafficking and brothels in London.
As a result of the evidence I have heard, I'm persuaded that crimes against sex workers should be treated in the same way as hate crimes. There has been a decrease in the number of sex workers reporting crime to police. It’s is only a matter of time before someone gets murdered as a result.
We need clear communication. Londoners would be surprised to learn that the police arrested more people for prostitution-related offences than for knife offences. Furthermore the Met's trafficking unit were unaware that 80 brothels had been closed by local police in Newham in the last 18 months.
We also need an evidence-based approach. Brothel raids have gone up in east London in time for the Olympics, even though the police admitted that prostitution has actually decreased. These raids damage communication, make women less safe as sex workers are displaced, and police lose intelligence on sex trafficking due to this deteriorating relationship.
Police need to focus more resource on non-organised sex trafficking outside the sex industry. I found evidence that sex trafficking is often not ‘organised’ and happens within closed networks: the majority of trafficking victims in accommodation units are West African, yet they are not usually the victims found in brothel raids.
Crucially, we need to stop assuming sex workers are a ‘special’ group who don’t know what’s best for them. They must be involved in helping the police and government create strategies to tackle crime related to sex work.
You can download the report here: