Residents of Southend’s Ambleside Drive fear ‘red lights’

PEOPLE living in a Southend estate have long complained of problems with gangs, drug dealers and even prostitution.

But as police tackle the problem and try to reassure residents of Ambleside Drive, some fear the problem has become so serious that the area is becoming a ‘red light district’ as men travel from far and wide to seek help. sexual relations.

Essex Police say stopping pavement crawling in the area is a priority – but, over a three-year period, have made just one arrest for the offense overall from Southend.

A freedom of information request shows that the force recorded only one arrest while crawling – soliciting another for the purpose of obtaining their sexual services as a prostitute in a street or public place – in the city between January 2019 and February 22, 2022.

The force says sidewalk crawling is a difficult offense to prove, adding that it has stopped more than 50 vehicles in the same period.

On Patrol – Police at Ambleside Drive

“Almost every night there are women on the street trying to attract men driving by,” said a resident, who did not wish to be named.

“It can be quite worrying coming home at night, because some of the guys controlling these women can be very aggressive.”

He added: ‘It looks like the road has become Southend’s unofficial red-light district. Everyone knows it, everything is out in the open, but nothing is done.

Essex Police say they are working with partner organizations to engage with women ‘as victims’.

The force says its prevention work involves helping women on the streets find new lives and targeting sidewalk caterpillars.

“Police have been patrolling more often lately, but clearly not enough is being done to target the men who descend here in fancy cars looking for prostitutes,” the unnamed resident added.

“The area really has a reputation for it now, so people come here specifically to buy sex.”

Read more >> “It’s like living in the Wild West around here”

The Aspirations Programme, a charity based in Southend, offers advice and supplies to help keep women safe and, if they wish, help them start a new life away from the sex trade.

“Most women are in a coercive and controlling relationship, many are controlled by men,” founder Marie Edmonds told the echo.

“They’re not up there by choice, they’re not up there to have a good time. Many are fueled by addiction.

In August last year, Essex Police began proactive patrols in the area in a bid to crack down on crime.

A police spokesperson said: ‘Operation Vimto has been launched in Southend following reports of an increase in street prostitution, drug activity and associated anti-social behavior .

“Our officers have spent time in the Ambleside Drive area, engaging with women who may be vulnerable and exploited.

“As a result of this work, several changes were made, including CCTV cameras placed along the road.

“This work is designed to be preventative, and we treat the women we speak with as victims and work alongside partners to ensure their well-being and get them out of prostitution.

“Stopping moving walkways is a key element of our action. Our job is to prevent this behavior, but when this behavior is identified, we take appropriate action. »

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