Detectives investigating prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery offences are appealing for information on pop-up brothels.
The appeal came in the week that 36-year-old woman Yue Zhu Dong, of Western Bank, Broomhill, Sheffield, was jailed for 22 months for controlling prostitution for gain and two counts of wasting police time.
Dong pimped out a prostitute using online adverts and was caught out when she made false claims to the police in a bid to ‘eliminate competition from a brothel’.
She called South Yorkshire Police in April and used a false name to give details of a woman she claimed was at risk of sexual exploitation in Northumbria.
South Yorkshire Police and Northumbria Police investigated and established that the claims were false.
When interviewed, Dong told officers she was paid £1,000 to make the calls to the police on behalf of a friend in an attempt ‘eliminate the competition from a brothel’.
During their investigation, officers found proof on Dong’s electronic devices that she had sent ‘numerous customers’ to a 54-year-old Chinese sex worker living in Portsmouth.
The court heard how most of the soliciting, which took place between January and April this year, was arranged online from her flat in Sheffield.
Dong took a cut of £10 from every client she sent to the sex worker’s home.
Detective Constable Ian Talbot, from the Modern Slavery Team, which investigated the offences, said: “Dong showed absolutely no remorse for the crimes she had been involved in.
“It is so important that we tackle the phenomenon of pop-up brothels as although there are many independent sex workers, these are the places where we are likely to see women who are being trafficked for sexual exploitation.”
Pop-up brothels are often set up in short term rented houses or flats and only operate for a few weeks or months.
Detective Sergeant Nikki Leach said: “It’s our job to act on intelligence received that a property may be being used a pop-up brothel, so that we can identify potential victims and safeguard them as quickly as possible.
“There are a few signs you can look out for that suggest a property is being used as a pop-up brothel. For example, there may be women there who never seem to leave, and men visiting the property at all hours of the day and into the evening.
“The property itself may appear as though no one lives there, with little to no furniture.
“Some people may be working there by choice but for others it will be because they feel they don’t have a choice and often we’ve seen cases where people have been trafficked into the country, having been promised a better life and employment opportunities.
“Once we have identified any victims in a pop-up brothel, we will then look to identify and prosecute any offenders, collect intelligence from the area and then look at whether the property can be issued with a closure notice.
“We are continuing to make progress in relation to this area of our work though and continue to receive information about pop-up brothels and associated modern slavery and human trafficking offences which we can follow up.”
Call South Yorkshire Police on 101, 999 in an emergency, or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.