WALTHAM FOREST: Campaigners to 'shame' kerb crawlers (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: Campaigners to 'shame' kerb crawlers
AN ANTI-PROSTITUTION campaign has been launched in Waltham Forest - with members vowing to tackle the issue by filming and confronting kerb crawlers.
The 'No To Prostitution' group claim sex workers are overrunning some of the borough's streets at night and also accuse the authorities of failing to act.
They want tougher legislation, including the criminalisation of prostitution, and increased enforcement - but also believe residents themselves can make a difference by approaching those involved.
Abu Usamah, 28, is one of the organisers and said he was growing increasingly concerned about areas such as Lea Bridge Road by the Bakers Arms in Leyton and St James Street in Walthamstow.
He said: "The situation has got out of control. If you come here at night there are lots of scantily clad women and kerb crawlers all over the place.
"But when residents call the police they do nothing. Something has to be done."
The group is convinced its "shame and embarrass" grassroots tactic of using video cameras to film kerb crawlers will scare them away from the area.
Mr Usamah said: "We've already gone out a few times with cameras to try it out. Due to the strength of the community among Muslims here I think it is unlikely any of us will get hurt. We are all Muslims but of course we are appealing for the wider community to get involved.
"We did have one instance where one of our members got approached by a pimp saying it was none of our business, but he walked away afterwards."
Some charities like London's Toynbee Hall argue that crackdowns on prostitution are self-defeating and drive women to take greater risks.
But campaigner Abdullah Muslim, 23, of Hoe Street, said: "We do see it as part of a wider problem in society, and governments should be doing more to provide solutions for those with drug problems and so on.
"But that does not mean we should have to put up with the symptoms of this or take the blame.
"We've been leafleting streets around Lea Bridge Road and we've already had a huge response. Residents are fed up with it and seeing condoms and needles in the streets."
A spokesman for Waltham Forest Police said the force did take the issue seriously and had carried out an operation in Lea Bridge Road last month.
Six prostitutes were cautioned and one man was arrested on suspicion of loitering for the purposes of prostitution.
Sergeant Fred Angove from Lea Bridge Safer Neighbourhood Team said: "We will respond to issues identified by the local community that are linked to street prostitution and associated anti-social behaviour".
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