July 31 2014 Latest news:
Mark Shales, Reporter
Friday, January 31, 2014
Raids on residential properties suspected of being used as brothels have been carried out in the latest operation in a ground-breaking crackdown on prostitution.
Newham Council is one of the first local authorities in the country to use planning regulations to clampdown on the sex-for-sale trade being carried out behind the net curtains of seemingly ordinary terraced houses and flats across the borough.
In the latest of the weekly swoops – last Wednesday evening – eight properties were visited by planning officers and police as part of Operation Miami launched 10 months ago.
One was suspected of being a brothel and the landlord was served with an enforcement notice.
The council has already shut 37 brothels as part of the initiative, which doesn’t require them to have a warrant.
They have the power to shutdown a brothel and prosecute a landlord for failing to comply with an enforcement notice.
Women sex workers found in raided homes are provided with a medical pack by police, containing details of organisations for them to seek help to give up the vice trade.
While it is illegal to run a brothel or solicit sex on the street, it is technically legal for a woman to charge for sex in her own home, if she is working alone.
However, if planning officers can prove a house is not being used for its intended purpose the brothel can be closed down within two days.
Insp Phil Stinger, of the enforcement partnership team, described how a dramatic increase in reports of off-street prostitution in the past two years had led to the launch of the operation.
“Complaints from concerned residents were growing in relation to an increase in brothels across the borough,” he said. He advised residents with concerns prostitutes may be using a property to contact their local neighbourhood team or the council.
Cllr Ian Corbett, the council’s executive member for infrastructure and environment, said: “The existence of brothels within residential areas is not new to London and is not solely a Newham issue. However, we are one of the first local authorities to use our planning powers to tackle it.”
Read next week’s Recorder as we join the council on a raid and list streets where brothels have been closed. Is one of them your street?