Save Our Eyes, Leeds

Facts about the “managed zone” aka “managed approach”

The managed approach started as a 12 month pilot scheme on 1st October 2014

The area consisted of designated streets away from residential areas, these were mainly streets with businesses, warehouses and derelict sites.

The managed area originally operated from 7pm and 7am and the general rules were that there would be no cautions or arrests for loitering, soliciting or kerb crawling during those hours.

A ‘three strikes’ policy meant rule-breakers would get a warning for a first breach, a caution for a second and be arrested for a third infringement.

Amanda, 25, says: “I was in Manchester but this is better, you don’t get trouble from the police here.” Asked if she cared about the families nearby, she shrugs and says: “Why? We have to work somewhere.”

The Holbeck scheme has been hailed a success — and not only by Leeds City Council. Gwent police want to set up an official red light area in Newport, citing the “success” of the Holbeck project. Other councils could follow.  (The Sun 6th April 2016)

Holbeck Managed Zone Myths – A simple guide for Leeds residents

Myth 1

Prostitutes work inside a defined “zone” in an industrial area that is intended to help keep them safe.  (Please note this section was written in 2018 and some information may have changed.)

a) The zone area is not well defined for local residents, only the prostituted women know where it is. Residents recently asked the Police to supply a list of the roads in the zone and/ or a map showing the boundary. This request was refused on the grounds that the Police do not know the extent of the zone. (We have since managed to obtain a current map but have been asked to keep it confidential)

b) The prostitutes take advantage of the flexible zone boundary, they believe they can trade in any area in the neighbourhood of the zone. Sexual activity & drug taking happen in residential streets, outside schools and in small parks & children’s play areas in Holbeck and neighbouring parts of Beeston.

c) The prostitutes are offended by local residents challenging them when they are outside the zone because the zone boundary is not properly defined. This has led to residents being threatened and even assaulted by angry prostitutes.

d) Police have suggested that the zone area moves according to where the prostituted women want to work and that the authorities are not really in control of it’s location. In recent weeks the “zone” terminology has been dropped in favour of the word “approach.”

Myth 2

Prostitutes work INSIDE the managed zone and are therefore less likely to entertain clients in residential streets

a) The zone is for meeting clients and taking payment from them. Sexual services are not supposed to happen in the managed zone. The prostituted women leave the zone with their clients on foot or by car and enter the parks and residential streets to perform sexual services with the client.

b) The zone has increased the number of financial transactions taking place in Holbeck and this has led to an increase in sex work related items being found outside the zone where they are actually used. Usual items found littering residential areas include used condoms, needles & syringes, used tampons, human faeces, baby wipes and associated wrappers.

c) In September 2017 a supporter of the zone claimed that it is far too small due to the numbers of prostituted women who want to work there. It is not possible for them all to work inside the zone. We understand that official figures show the number of prostituted women forced into “work” on the streets of Holbeck has risen by over 25% in the last 3 years.

Myth 3

Hours of public “trading” ie walking the street scantily clad, looking into cars and propositioning passing men are restricted to the hours overnight between 8pm and 6am

a) The agreed hours of trading are not respected at all. Prostitution is evident almost 24 hours a day with women seen soliciting between the hours of 7am and into the early hours of the morning.

b) As trading takes place at any time of day, men looking for prostitutes are unable to tell whether ANY woman in the streets around Holbeck is a prostitute. Cars will draw up alongside women who are walking to and from work in the city centre. Prostituted women approach men who are walking in the area to try and drum up trade. Previous complaints from residents include a married man pushing his daughter in a push chair and a 17 year old male student who were both offered sexual services in the street.

Myth 4

Prostitution is there but something you’d have to look for. It’s not “in your face.”

a) There is no escape for the residents of areas near the managed zone. Prostituted women and their clients are in the streets, passing in cars, in private gardens, children’s play areas, parks, stairwells & fire escapes of local buildings.

b) The noise of prostitution keeps residents awake at night. Drug delivery vehicles and clients cars sound their horns at all times of day and night. Prostitutes, pimps and clients who are drunk or have taken drugs shout in the streets; getting into arguments with each other and with passing residents.

c)  Drug dealing and supply chains operate 24 hours a day with cars running around the area doing deliveries. 

All my family lived in Holbeck in the Normantons. We didn't have a car so had to walk everywhere. As a child in the 1960's I'd walk to St Francis school every day. We never saw prostitutes during my childhood, they were not part of everyday life in Holbeck!

It was a lovely community, lots of families, we all knew each other. There was a real community spirit.

I became a Police officer and spent 30 years in the force in Leeds. I was based at Millgarth originally then at Holbeck Police station. I retired in 2007. During my years in the Police prostitution in Holbeck was not mentioned, I was not aware of any complaints. I didn't see prostitutes in the area when visiting family either.

I'm confused by the recent claims made by certain people that “prostitution has always been a problem in Holbeck” because in my own experience that is not correct.”

Angela, retired Police officer

Myth 5

The managed zone has been “successful”

a) Almost anything can be judged successful if the criteria for success are carefully chosen. In this case, the impact on local residents quality of life and the risks to children from used needles & syringes have not been taken into account. Only criteria that make the project look good are considered, eg prostituted women are now more likely to report crimes against themselves. It is not clear whether the increase in reported crimes against sex workers is due to the zone increasing their willingness to report; or whether it’s due to an increase in crimes because there are now more prostitutes and therefore more crimes against them. It is possible the risks to prostituted women working in Holbeck have reduced slightly, but the risks to other women and children living in Holbeck have risen and these are not considered in the criteria for success.

b) The prostituted women may be “safer” for the initial “meet, greet and pay” transactions inside the managed zone, but are still engaging in a very dangerous occupation. There has already been one murder of a woman who met her client in the zone then left with him to a more private place. There have been two recent deaths in the area, with rumours circulating that one of those is linked to the managed zone.

Myth 6

The women make a free will decision to work as prostitutes. They are not drug addicts. It’s the “worlds oldest profession” and a legitimate occupation.

a) As of October 2017, the prostituted women are mainly addicts who are forced to work to obtain money for heroin, crack & spice. (ref. interview with a sex worker 3/10/17)

b) The high volume of needles & syringes found in the areas where prostitutes work suggests they are either addicts or are supplying drugs to the clients as part of the client experience.

c) Residents observe a lot of drug dealers in the area with cars pulling up to supply drugs to prostituted women and their pimps/ dealers at their homes and in the street.

Myth 7

There was a need for a managed approach to prostitution in the city so the local Councillors voted for this on the resident’s behalf.

a) The managed approach has never been approved by a council vote. We believe this is an attack on democracy and a vote should be held as soon as possible

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