By Jacob Smith
The UK’s first legally managed sex zone has now been in operation for over five years but is currently under review by crime and social experts at the University of Huddersfield.
Safer Leeds first introduced the Managed Approach scheme in October 2014 in response to long-standing issues of street sex work impacting on Holbeck and the surrounding area for over a decade.
Safer Leeds is a community safety partnership group that includes many responsible authorities such as Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police.
The Managed Approach scheme has been widely debated amongst many throughout its five years of operation.
Holbeck resident, Kadam Sheard, 30, said: “It’s a really seedy place during the evening, fortunately I drive now but a couple of years ago I would have to walk past sex workers quite regularly”.
Mr Sheard also said: “Sex workers have been operating in and around Holbeck for as long as I can remember so I think the council was correct to do something as bold as introducing the Managed Approach zone but I’m not sure how well it’s being delivered”.
Safer Leeds aims to reduce the prevalence of street sex work and to also better engage with sex workers to improve their health and safety, with a view to enabling them to exit this way of life.
Safer Leeds said: “This is categorically not a legal red-light district”.
Reducing the problems caused by street prostitution to residents and businesses is also a primary aim of Safer Leeds yet these issues are still occurring even five years into the scheme.
Holbeck resident, Keisha, 27 and a mother of two said: “These women and their customers are not operating within the Managed Approach zone. Holbeck is a small place and I know that people are not happy”.
Leeds City Council work with several third sector partners to provide services to sex workers such as one-to-one intensive support but while Keisha appreciated this vital aspect of the scheme, she wanted to see discipline by local enforcement when the rules are broken.
Keisha said: “I want to see more discipline, I don’t necessarily know how but it’s not acceptable hearing stories of needles and condoms being found close to schools”.
The independent review conducted by Enterprises Ltd is due to conclude in Spring 2020.