Redbridge council’s efforts to reduce prostitution are a “complete disgrace” that will endanger vulnerable women, an activist group has warned.
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECOP) warns that a £20,000 trial to change the mindset and behaviour of those soliciting sex will only force sex workers into more dangerous situations.
The trial, announced earlier this month, was funded by a grant from the Local Government Association and will focus on South Ilford, a prostitution hotspot.
The council has also increased its council enforcement presence, CCTV and police patrols in the area, as well as banning attempts to buy sexual services in public.
ECOP spokesperson Laura Watson said: “Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution or stop the criminalisation of workers. It does make it more dangerous for sex workers, which is our concern.
“The need for clients does not go away but clients become nervous to stop, which means women don’t have the time to negotiate, check them out, see if there’s anyone else in the car or let a friend write the licence plate down.
“You just have to jump in the car rather than take time and that’s a very dangerous situation the council are putting women in.
Redbridge Council's leader Jas Athwal said: “The overriding objective of our enforcement work has always been to tackle the men who we know are illegally soliciting sex.
“Rather than being arrested, women are engaged and signposted to support services to try and help them find other sources of income, and help them come to terms with any trauma they may have experienced."
He said residents had appealed to the council for help after "daily confrontations with men soliciting sex, in their front gardens, high street and alley ways".