Ipswich brothels: Life as a neighbour of sex workers

Firmin Close, Ipswich
Image caption The police raided a brothel on Firmin Close in 2010

The disruption of a network of brothels has highlighted the issue of sex workers in a town where five women were murdered only six years ago.

Six people have now been jailed, including the couple who ran the operation, after police raids in a string of towns and cities, including Ipswich, where the women were killed.

Police estimate some 400 premises are being used to sell sex in Suffolk, making life difficult for residents trying to go about their daily lives.

"Sometimes my bell would get rung and I've had to lean out of the window and tell them they'd got the wrong doorbell," said one woman, Nikita Miller.

A brothel had been in operation in a flat neighbouring hers.

"It's disturbing in that you would walk past men on the staircase and difficult when you've got a young son around," Ms Miller said.

The flat on Firmin Close was one of several raided and shut down by the police in 2010 in an operation that also took in Colchester, Norwich and the West Country.

Alexsander Sochacki, 41, and Aleksandra Bryll, 29, both of Chelmsford, Essex, had been jailed for running the operation, while the other four received community orders or suspended sentences, at an earlier hearing.

Suffolk Police claim they have "all but eradicated" street prostitution in Ipswich since the 2006 murders of five women who were sex workers.

Massage adverts

They are targeting off-street prostitution, but said a premises is only illegal if it contains more than one person selling sex or has someone managing it.

Image caption Ch Supt Alan Caton has been in charge of the police's prostitution strategy

Officers keep track of the number of flats and houses by monitoring "personal services" adverts on the internet and in local newspapers.

Ch Supt Alan Caton, head of public protection, said: "We felt it was time to challenge the view that it was always going to be here and there was nothing you could do about it and I think the work we have done has proved that.

"We know there are probably in excess of 400 locations across Suffolk which are selling sex, but not all of those are going to be illegal, so our job is to concentrate on individuals or gangs that are illegally selling sex and coercing or trafficking vulnerable women into a lifestyle that they would not ordinarily choose.

"It can be very anti-social with people turning up at all hours, knocking on doors, many cars being parked outside and the noise that goes with that."

Police said the criminals' method was to rent premises for short periods and move women around between them.

Prostitution 'will remain'

London Road has historically been part of the area regarded as Ipswich's "red-light district", and Steve Wright, who murdered prostitutes in 2006, lived in the area.

Greg Dobbin lives opposite one of the flats on London Road which was raided in 2010.

"Obviously people know [prostitution] goes on, it gives the road a bit of a bad name and I think it has got worse since the murders down the road," he said.

"You get people going up and down, the police pulling up and it is anti-social."

Cherie Walters, who has lived on London Road for 44 years, said: "Prostitution will never, ever go.

"It's not getting the car business now, but it's happening in flats and there's so much letting going on on this road now.

"This area will never pick up because it's bedsitter land."

Ch Supt Caton said: "We do need to challenge the view that it's the 'oldest profession', it's always here and you can do nothing about it, because we've shown that you can do something about it with street prostitution.

"Off-street premises is something we will continue to look at, but our job's not going to disappear."

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