KERB CRAWLERS could be visited at home by police to explain why their cars have been spotted cruising Sheffield’s red light district - in a new crackdown on the city’s vice industry.
Police hope the threat of a home visit will deter men from picking up prostitutes on the streets in and around Shalesmoor and Neepsend, where sex workers ply their trade.
And officers hope that will reduce the demand for prostitutes, resulting in fewer girls and women offering sex to strangers, and more prostitutes choosing to leave the illicit industry.
Inspector Darren Starkey, of the Central Safer Neighbourhood Team, which cover Sheffield’s red light district, said officers will be on the lookout for vehicles cruising the streets - and confirmed the owners of any vehicles regularly seen could be visited at home for an explanation.
Kerb crawlers caught in the act will receive an initial formal caution but, if they are caught again, they will be asked to sign an acceptable behaviour contract.
Further breaches will land them in court where they could be served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.
Courts also have the power to ban kerb crawlers from driving.
Inspector Starkey said the push to reduce prostitution was aimed at keeping sex workers safe.
In 2001 young mum Michaela Hague, aged 25, from Pitsmoor, was murdered by a punter who picked her up from the corner of Bower Street, off Corporation Street.
She was found slumped on the ground of a nearby car park, having been stabbed in the back and neck 19 times.
Her killer has never been caught.
Inspector Starkey said: “Police are regularly in the Shalesmoor area because, for the girls and women involved in prostitution, there is a threat, harm and risk issue in terms of their personal safety.
“If we come across a kerb crawler who has gone there to pick one of them up they will be issued with a Home Office caution.
“We have various methods of establishing who is visiting the area, such as residents recording registration details, and if we get these we will follow up that intelligence and could follow it up with a knock on the door at home.
“The idea is to put fear in their minds of kerb crawlers that somebody might be taking down their registration number.
“We do get complaints from residents which we take seriously, but this is also about the safety of the girls and women involved.
“Prostitution has reduced a lot because of the work of the police and partners such as the Sheffield Working Women’s Opportunity Project in terms of developing ways out for the women.
“But there are still people doing it and, over the years, there have been women killed and injured.”