Barking and Dagenham falling behind other boroughs in tackling prostitution, says MP Margaret Hodge
- Credit: Danielle Jalowiecka
Barking and Dagenham lags behind other London boroughs in efforts to tackle prostitution run by organised crime gangs, the MP for Barking has said.
Dame Margaret Hodge joined police, councillors and community leaders for a street meeting on the issue outside the Al Madina mosque on Friday afternoon.
She told worshippers and concerned residents attempts to make Victoria Road safer after nearly a decade of sex workers using the area should match those of Redbridge Council, who had improved street lighting and CCTV coverage in similar sites off Ilford Lane, Ilford.
“It does seem to me that Redbridge have put out lights, and Barking hasn’t,” said the Labour MP. “If they can do it, we should do it.
“The community, they don’t care about administrative boundaries. This is a problem for the area,” she added. “Everybody’s got to work together on it.”
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Dame Margaret spoke at the third meeting following complaints of lewd acts in public and sex workers approaching worshippers attending the mosque back in June.
Also present was Sgt Matt Taylor of the Metropolitan Police, who said 35 arrests had been made since the operation began.
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Officers adapted their tactics to stamp out crime, rather than playing whack-a-mole with prostitution pushed out of one area only to resurface elsewhere, he added.
But even with the “joined-up” policing efforts mentioned at the last meeting on July 24, some locals raised concerns that antisocial behaviour would return when officers moved on.
“You do this, and then it comes back again,” said one, “and that’s been going on for some years.”
A phone number, rather than the current email address, would be a better way of letting residents tip off police about sex workers operating nearby, said another.
“How appropriate will that be if somebody goes to the trouble of leaving a message, and then you’re going to get it the next day? We need some instant response in some way.”
Asked by Dame Margaret if police resources had been cut since the operation began, Sgt Taylor denied this but agreed they were “reduced”.
A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham Council said they were working with colleagues in Redbridge and the police to address the issues.
“The Council has a programme of works to improve lighting across the borough including the area around Tanner Street,” he said, adding that extra funding from the Government or Mayor of London would be sought if a review of CCTV in the area found more cameras were needed.
Another meeting is scheduled for early January.