To receive a presentation from Superintendent Chris Jones
Superintendent Chris Jones and Acting Police Sergeant Eren Emin introduced this report.
· The presentation in the agenda pack is on Operation Boxster, this is a dedicated operation in the Fore Street area covering both Enfield and Haringey and has been a full-time operation for four to five months.
· This was an extremely difficult long-standing problem.
· This is a partnership led approach.
· The presentation covers; background and history, operation objectives, command structure, complaints, engagement, designing out crime with Enfield Council, enforcement action, days of action results and the future vision.
· Fore street has been known as Enfield’s “Red Light District” for the last 10 years.
· In 2015 a sex worker was stabbed to death whilst stood on Fore street N18 and between 2017-18 there were two stranger rapes of sex workers.
· Although there has been engagement with sex workers for many years, through charities and support agencies this has not reduced either the number of sex workers or the high levels of ASB and other related crimes.
· In November 2019 Operation Boxster was launched as a multi-agency and partnership operation. In June 2020 this became a permanent team made up of 1 Police Sergeant and 6 Police Constables.
· The operational objectives and the command structure are detailed on pages 9 and 10 of the agenda pack.
· The police receive complaints through 101, Met website and through Twitter. All of which are regularly monitored. Common complaints are; condoms left everywhere; they are doing business in front of my house; Fore street is covered with sex workers and the area is filled with gang members using sex workers.
· There is a balance of engagement against enforcement, many partnership meetings take place and guidance is taken from multiple outreach projects.
· Unfortunately, services offered by these outreach projects are often refused due to the amount of money they are making.
· Examples were provided within the presentation of work undertaken with Enfield Council to design out crime.
· Operation Boxster officers work majority late shifts and night shifts to target high levels of ASB, sex work and crime in the N18 area.
· Sex worker and kerb crawler enforcement is taking place with multiple arrests achieving a 96% conviction rate.
· At the start of the operation 36 persistent sex workers were identified, through engagement and enforcement there has been an overall reduction of 76%., although some has slowly started to return
· In excess of 27 vehicles in the last three months have been seized following proactive stops.
· This operation also targets those supplying drugs following intelligence led warrants multiple drugs and weapons have been seized: 11 knives, 2 firearms and 63 separate drug seizures since June 2020.
· Moving forward the vision is to radically reduce the number of sex workers operating on the streets of Enfield, mitigate the risks associated with sex work and increase the sense of safety with the local community and local residents. The robust zero tolerance approach will continue.
Questions, queries and comments made:
1. In response to a query on where the clientele comes from in Fore Street members were advised that this is a roughly a 50/50 split between those living locally or within the area and those who are passing through.
2. Has Covid 19 reduced clientele numbers in the area. Members were advised that it is believed this is not due to Covid, numbers went up during the major part of lockdown. This meant that is was easier to identify and target those who has not previously been targeted.
3. Given that this is such a long-standing problem what is different about the current objectives and operation? Does the success that has been seen mean that the problem has been eliminated or displaced. As it is stated that engagement is often refused is this the biggest inhibition to previous initiatives. Superintendent Jones advised that previously the police were dedicating 1or 2 days roughly every 6 weeks to try and tackle the problem. This is not robust or consistent enough approach. This would also be effected by operational demands and other competing priorities. There are significant issues with violence within the North Area BCU. This meant that the problem was not getting a consistent fulltime approach. Having a dedicated team with single points of contact within the police whose job is to concentrate in that area.
4. Displacement, anecdotal evidence that some has moved to other parts of London. Sex workers in the Fore Street area are generally speaking there is a large proportion Eastern European females, around 20% British class A drug users that are supporting a habit. Arrest and sentencing of those addicted does not act as deterrent, they need help and diversion instead. The police are working with the modern day slavery teams and other specialist units on the Eastern European element. Ladies who are stopped from an Eastern European background claim that they are not being coerced or controlled in any way. However, there is concern that this is not true. There is also a cohort operating for financial gain. Help from central government with extra policing filing in gaps in neighbourhood and schools policing has enabled a dedicated team to be put together to work on a specific problem.
5. Is education still being users for the clientele to try to steer them away from this activity. This was previously used and was successful and was part of lots of different tactics to tackle this issue. A dedicated team has allowed a more consistent holistic approach to be taken with all activities coordinated. There is also an operation that maps out brothels and sex worker activity inside properties. This allows oversight and knowledge to map out where the issues are.
6. Brexit will this increase there are a number of things ongoing but cannot be discussed at present
7. Work with communities on cultural element. The police have recruited to their Independent Advisory Group a lawyer who works directly for Roma communities. There is a meeting with an Eastern European group around links and cultures. The police have also been able to recruit eastern European officers who have been utilised on patrol, understand cultural elements and can speak to some of the workers in their own language
8. Other issues identified as part of this work how is this feeding in and how are you working with other stakeholders to see the impact. The Fore Street corridor has always been a hotspot for criminal activity; having a dedicated team in a geographical area has had an impact. This helps build trust with shopkeepers, residents and business owners. Officers work late shifts and night shifts and Safer Neighbourhood teams operate during the day and pick up the stakeholder engagement.
9. Drug supply which drives violence during lockdown for Covid the price of drugs has gone up the availability and access for supplies and dealers has diminished. This has increased violence around this. Covid has a limited effect on the Boxster approach the initial success is down to a coordinated approach with permanent dedicated team with named police officers opens channels of communications for community members the local authority and business and assists partnership working
The Chair thanked officers for the overview and their presentation on this major long standing issue and the wider impact of this work, pleased to see the focus on the future. This item will come back to the committee’s final meeting for an update on the continuation of this work and the wider impact within the community.