I’ve lived in Holbeck over 20 years and last night was the scariest night of my life.  I’m retired now after running a newsagents in the city centre for many years.
Every week I meet up with a group of friends at The Holbeck Club.  We enjoy a few beers and have a natter.  Last night started off the same as usual, we had a good evening.  One of my friends gets a taxi home to avoid dealing with the prostituted women and pimps in the streets and he offered me a lift.  I declined as I prefer to walk home and get a bit of exercise.  I left the Club at 11.30pm and took my usual route that avoids most of the prostitution-related activity around the St Matthews community centre.  St Matthews is well away from the “managed area” but there are still lots of punters and prostitutes around there.

I hadn’t gone far at all, I hadn’t even reached Holbeck Moor, when a punter in a car dropped a woman off in the street near me.  She and I were walking in opposite directions towards each other.  I thought she’d just pass me by but she asked “Are you looking for business?”

I kept my head down and didn’t reply, just kept walking.  She changed direction and started following me, shouting at me “You don’t want business?  What’s wrong with you? Aren’t I good enough for you?” I thought the safest thing to do was keep quiet and keep walking.

“It was like a zombie apocalypse… people rising up in the darkness and walking towards me…”

Then, out of nowhere, a man appeared.  He joined in, shouting at me “Isn’t she good enough for you?” Now they were both after me!  The man looked Asian but he wasn’t… he started shouting out in another language, possibly Romanian.  His shouts drew other people out from the darkness.  People were appearing, also shouting in a language I could not understand.  Moving towards me.  It was like a scene from a zombie movie.  I couldn’t see them properly, I could only see their shapes coming closer.  That’s when I started to think I was really in trouble.

I decided to try and get through a small cul-de-sac nearby to escape but I hadn’t realised it was closed off at the end.  The people shouting at me seemed to know there was no escape for me.  Seven of them stood across the entrance to the street to make sure I could not escape. They were three foreign men and four white women.
I got out my phone and dialled 999, had to do it 3 times before I got it right!  My confusion with the phone meant they thought I was taking photos of them, then they heard me asking for the police.  Immediately they all ran away in different directions.  I was left alone wondering what on earth had just happened to me.
When I got home I went to the Save Our Eyes Facebook group and reported the incident there.  Another member told me there would be a consultation event for local elderly people today at St Matthews community centre.  So I went along this lunchtime.
Some of our ward councillors were there with police representatives.  We discussed residents issues with the managed approach while in small groups around tables.  The councillor on my table talked about the project as though it had been successful which confused me a little.

When the event finished I left the building around 1.15pm.  Straight away a prostitute approached me asking if I wanted business!  I was already talking to someone on my mobile phone so I ignored her and did not reply.  Then she started following me in the street shouting at me!  I turned around to go back to the meeting as some people were still there chatting.  I wanted the councillors to come out with me and see what was happening.  The woman followed me all the way to the door.  

Once inside, I saw the two councillors in the hall listening to a man talking.  I didn’t interrupt them, just waited a while to try and catch Councillor Gabriel’s eye.  When she saw me she lifted up her finger to her mouth and quietly went “Shhh…” so I knew not to talk.
I was furious and walked out of the building again.  It’s clear to me that if one pensioner can get harassed in the streets twice in 24 hours the managed approach is not working.  There are multitudes of pimps and prostitutes waiting to try and obtain money from local residents.  Until last night, I had not realised how many people lurk in the darkness in our residential areas waiting to prey on us.
This is a community safety issue.  We need urgent help to clear these predators from our streets. I no longer feel safe here and I know many other residents feel the same way.

Helen’s 13 year old daughter was harassed by a punter. She explains, “The “managed approach” has made the punters and prostitutes much bolder than they were before.  Their attitudes towards the local residents can be shocking.  The sex industry are trying to claim the whole of Holbeck, not just the small area they have been allocated for the zone.”
Read their story here 

Strictly copyright Save Our Eyes 2019.  John was interviewed by SOE committee member, Paula, on 30th May 2019

error: Content is copyright Save Our Eyes 2019