A red-light district has been made a permanent fixture less than three weeks after a sex worker was killed in the area.
The street prostitution zone has been allowed to continue indefinitely despite the death of year-old prostitute Daria Pionko who was found with fatal injuries inside the billinvs area" in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council's executive member for Safer Leeds, called the death of Miss Pionko a "tragedy" but insisted a managed area was needed to protect sex workers. Under the scheme sex workers are allowed to ply their zone in the deated part of the Holbeck area of the city between 7pm and 7am, but council chiefs are looking at extending the hours women can work.
Cllr Dobson said: "I accept that there are people who will always have a rscort objection to the issue of prostitution.
Sex work remains - as last month proved - an extremely dangerous and fraught occupation. But it's incumbent on us to make it as safe as possible.
The managed red-light district, thought to be the first of its kind in the country, was set up in October Edcort zone was set up after research found out that police action against sex workers was failing to reduce levels of prostitution. The scheme - which is being considered by other local authorities - allows women to work in certain areas without fear of arrest within deated hours as long as they abide by certain rules.
Superintendent Sam Millar, who he the Safer Leeds community safety partnership, said: "Our job is to keep people safe and that applies when people put themselves in risky situations. Having gone through years and years of enforcement, which hasn't achieved the outcomes of breaking the cycle of sex work, we wanted to do something different which might help us better achieve those outcomes, to be brave and take some risks.
Area community safety co-ordinater Zahid Butt said: "For 10 to 15 years this issue dominated residents' meetings. It doesn't do that in the same way now.
West Esxort Police said that sex workers are much more likely to talk to officers and report crimes committed against them. Last year two men were jailed for raping sex workers, in cases which officers said benefited from a new level of trust between them and the women involved. Dr Teela Sanders, a researcher at the University of Leeds who carried out an evaluation oeeds the scheme following the month pilot, said it was "brave and innovative" for councillors to set up the managed area.
Dr Sanders said: "Lots of other police forces and agencies have expressed an interest in transferring and adapting the managed area in other parts of the country. She said the scheme had been an initial success, but more work needed to be done to ensure the safety of women working in the area. New recommendations made by Dr Sanders state that women should be lleeds to work earlier or have use of a "daytime space" away from businesses.
The review, carried out before the death of Polish prostitute Miss Pionko, said migrant sex workers were particularly at risk. Rosie Campbell, who used to run the sex workers' charity Basis and is now involved in academic research, said protecting billihgs workers was in the interests of society as a whole.
It's in all of our interests to take those men off the streets. A year-old man is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Miss Pionko. A female bi,lings officer has been ased to specifically interact with them.
According to the council, since the area was set up, complaints from residents have fallen. She also called for better street lighting and more CCTV.
She said: "I believe the people of Leeds are fair people.