Chch police defend their approach to prostitution

By Hayley Hannan, Matthew Theunissen

A sex worker on Bealey Ave, who moved there after being shut out of the red zone. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A sex worker on Bealey Ave, who moved there after being shut out of the red zone. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Police are defending their approach to dealing with prostitution in Christchurch after a family complained that their street had been taken over by sex workers whose usual beats were cordoned off after February's earthquake.

The family, who live north of Bealey Ave on the fringe of the inner city, say they have to live in the back half of their house because they are too scared and disturbed by the business on the street.

Husband Jonathan, who did not want to give his surname, said he had to listen to street noise and has heard men discussing "who gets to go first''.

"They start to generate considerable street noise, people beep their horns, yell out comments, we even hear them discussing their terms of trade.''

He said one prostitute flashed him her private parts when he tried to leave his property for work, and another blocked his driveway because she was negotiating with a client in a car.

Every morning defecation is left on private properties and on the road side, he said.

The distressed resident and his neighbours have contacted the police, Christchurch City Council and local political candidates to no success.

Christchurch central area commander Inspector Derek Erasmus said although prostitution is not illegal, police can still minimise the harm it does to communities.

"It's not true to say there's nothing we do or nothing we have done. We've actually done a very large amount working with these groups, but the proviso is that prostitution is legal so we can't actually remove them.''

Mr Erasmus said police had installed cameras on Bealey Ave to monitor their activity and had regular foot patrols in the area.

"It's not only monitoring the criminal behaviour associated with prostitution but it's also to make sure that the prostitutes are not becoming victims because there have been prostitutes who have been murdered and victimised in the past.''

Mr Erasmus said there had been other complaints about prostitutes in the area, for instance church and school carparks were sometimes used by prostitutes, who left "disgusting'' litter behind.

Installing fences to prevent cars entering and lighting were good ways to deter this sort of thing, he said.

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective regional coordinator Anna Reed said it was obvious why the prostitutes had moved to Bealey Ave because much of their traditional beat on Manchester St was ``like a warzone'' after the earthquakes.

The prostitutes would move back to the central city once the cordons had been lifted, although no one knew when this would happen.

Ms Reed encouraged the prostitutes to move away from residential areas and to be respectful of locals, although she said residents should also try to understand their circumstances.

"I think it's a time for people to a bit of exercise tolerance on all levels,'' she said.

- APNZ

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