35 men were arrested during an operation targeting kerb crawlers in Middlesbrough and Stockton.
The operation took part on eleven nights over a four-week period in February and March.
In total, 35 men were arrested on suspicion of kerb crawling. So far, eight of these have been reported for summons, twenty have been cautioned with the condition that they take part in a one-day ‘Ur Choice’ course ran by Barnardo’s and others remain on bail pending further enquiries. Five have since been released without charge.
Sergeant Paul Higgins, from Cleveland Police Licensing Support Unit, said: “We carried out this operation as a result of concerns raised by local residents in the Parkfield area of Stockton and the Gresham area of Middlesbrough.
“We work closely with local agencies such as A Way Out and Barnardo’s to support these vulnerable women who feel that they have no other way to turn. There are services that are available to the women and we would encourage them to make contact with those services.
“Some of those who were arrested during the operation had already received convictions for kerb crawling and one man had even been convicted of violence against women. This highlights some of the danger that these women are facing.
“Our operation sends a strong message – do not travel to Cleveland to solicit sex and not expect to be caught.”
Stuart Higgins, from Barnardo’s SECOS, said: “Instead of focussing on the women involved in prostitution, Cleveland Police and Barnardo’s SECOS are addressing the other side of the equation – the men who solicit for sex on the streets. We do this through the ‘UR Choice’ programme which aims to educate men about the reality of sex workers’ lives and the consequences of their actions.
“The programme is offered to first time offenders with no previous serious convictions. It is a full seven-hour day and is delivered on a pass or fail basis with Barnardo’s SECOS project workers. We work by promoting understanding and empathy and showing how the behaviour of these men perpetuates a cycle of abuse.
“Historically, kerb crawlers within Teesside would have been arrested, prosecuted and ‘named and shamed’. Unfortunately this has a massive effect on the men’s children and families, who have done nothing wrong.
“So far 90 men have attended the course and to date we have had only one reoffender.”
Chief Executive Officer, Jane Harmer, from A Way Out, said: “A Way Out engages with and supports highly vulnerable women, young people and families – many ‘trapped’ by substance misuse, sexual exploitation and homelessness – in order to improve health, wellbeing and safety through the provision of early intervention, prevention, recovery and crisis services.”
Further information about the support available can be found at: www.awayout.co.uk and www.barnardos.org.uk