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CITIES CONSIDER RED LIGHT ZONES

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Several cities are considering establishing red light areas - so-called tolerance zones, which would have the bless...
Several cities are considering establishing red light areas - so-called tolerance zones, which would have the blessing of police and local authorities - a move which has been greeted with fury, according to the Sunday Express (p1, pp4-5).

The zones, where prostitutes would be allowed to operate, would be based on similar lines to a system being used in some Dutch cities. The idea was discussed at a conference held in Birmingham.

Plans for tolerance zones in Sheffield were abandoned some time ago, But Birmingham City Council is currently considering a report into the idea. Plans are also being discussed in Stoke-on-Trent where mayor Mike Wolfe said: 'We need to manage prostitution...and the managed zone is something which a number of local authorities are looking at, and we shall be looking at through this overview process. That would make it clear to anyone, women or men, who want to use prostitutes that it is not acceptable to indulge in prostitution within the residential streets of our city'.

In Edinburgh, where an informal tolerance zone has been operating for some time, Margot MacDonald, an independent member of the Scottish parliament, wants other Scottish cities, including Aberdeen and Glasgow, to follow the same route. She said the policy in Edinburgh had led to lower levels of sexual disease, the disappearance of pimps, and no girls under 16 on the streets.

At the conference, Commander Andy Baker, head of Scotland yard's homicide investigations, called for an informed discussion on how to tackle the safety of sex industry workers. He told the audience of sex workers, police officers and Home Office officials: 'I am not arguing for or against tolerance zones but there is need for an informed debate on this subject..We know sex workers are vulnerable because of the twilight world in which they have to work'.

The conference learned that in Holland the zones were nothing like traditional red light districts. They tended to be away from city centres and were regulated by local authori ties. Customers could drive into hangar-like brothels where business is conducted away from public gaze.

Michael Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, said: 'It's time we got to grips with the issue of prostitution as it leads to all sorts of related crime problems. We should take the lead from other European countries such as Holland, which have tackled it well'.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said: 'I think it is an appalling idea. You cannot have one law for one area and another law for another area. Either prostitution is illegal or it's not. If a tolerance zone were to be set up in my Romford constituency I would be outraged - there would be uproar'.

The reaction of John Butterfill, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, was similar. He said: 'I don't think my constituents would tolerate this on any level. There is already a great deal of tension between tourists, hoteliers and street prostitutes that blights our area.

'There is one particular street where we have this problem where it is offensive to see girls plying their trade. An outright ban would be a forlorn hope'.

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