Sex crime is rife in Cheltenham - police chief
PROSTITUTION rings are rife in suburban Cheltenham – according to the police chief tasked with cracking down on sex crime in the town.
Detective Inspector Sue Bradshaw, of Gloucestershire police, said despite their efforts to stop criminals trafficking women into the town to work as prostitutes, it was a persistent problem which would not go away overnight.
It comes after two brothel raids in the town last month in the affluent neighbourhoods of Pittville and the Suffolks, and it was the centre of a nationwide police swoop in 2006 for Operation Pentameter and in 2008 for Operation Pentameter II, in which brothels across the town were raided, resulting in 528 arrests across the UK. DI Bradshaw said police faced a tough task stamping out sex crime for good.
"There seems to be a trend in Cheltenham that every six to 12 months a new prostitution business starts up," she said.
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"All we can do is hope we are able to stop it. Because of the covert nature of human trafficking, it is difficult to police this sort of crime."
She added that many sex workers were given a script by their bosses to tell law enforcement when they were arrested or questioned.
She said: "It is very frustrating and challenging as it is a long process in trying to win the trust of the victims. When our police units burst through the door of brothels, some of the women think they are being robbed and get scared. It is a traumatic experience for them.
"Many of the women have been brought in from Eastern Europe and have natural distrust for law enforcement as they are corrupt in their own countries."
They are urging people to report signs of human traffickers, which include women never being seen outside houses without a minder.
Gloucestershire police run a 45-day programme to help women in the sex trade get the support to break free of the gangs controlling them.
"Sometimes we give them train tickets to get away, but it can very frustrating when they end up back in the brothels again a few weeks later," added DI Bradshaw.
An inquiry into prostitution and people trafficking in Cheltenham was proposed by the borough council earlier this year.
Councillor Anne Regan (C, Warden Hill), who is on a working group looking at the issue, said: "These comments prove there is an underlying problem linked to the sex trade and people trafficking in the area.
"It shows there really is a need to gauge the extent of the problem and why – if indeed it is – Cheltenham is more of a hotspot than other parts of the country."
â Anyone with concerns about human trafficking in their area can call the National Trafficking Support Service on 0300 303 8151 or police on 101.