City firms give street prostitutes red light

BIG business is pushing members of the oldest profession out of a notorious section of Glasgow’s red light district.

Prostitutes have been forced to leave the Anderston area of the city after police were inundated by complaints from companies moving there as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment.

The sex workers say they have been corralled back into the heart of the red light district and the dangerous, unlit lanes around West Campbell Street and Bothwell Street.

Out of the range of CCTV cameras and police patrols, they have told Scotland on Sunday they fear a repeat of the vicious attacks carried out in the area in the 1990s.

The conflict between big business and the prostitutes around the site of the old Anderston bus station reached fever pitch earlier this year as firms such as Direct Line and quangos such as Scottish Enterprise moved their operations there. The zone is at the heart of a 300m redevelopment scheme to turn the North Clyde into a new financial district.

Hundreds of office workers felt intimidated by the trade going on outside their windows and in some cases women employees were targeted by curb crawlers.

After a series of complaints, police warned prostitutes and support groups they would enforce the law, effectively putting a stop to the unofficial tolerance zone.

The change comes as a TV documentary on prostitution last week praised Glasgow for its treatment of women working in the city. Dispatches: Sex On The Street claimed that violence against the prostitutes had almost been eliminated. But prostitutes fear that will now change.

Samantha, 38, told Scotland on Sunday: "It’s getting worse out here. It is more and more dangerous every single night we come out. Now that we have been moved away from Anderston Square there are more and more girls looking for business in a smaller area. Because it’s getting more difficult to earn, some of them are starting to move on to other parts of town that are even more dangerous."

She added that drug dealers were increasingly targeting the girls because they know they are all in one area.

She said: "I’m out every night for eight or nine hours at a time and I get offered everything - coke, kit [heroin] and even crack nowadays."

Superintendent Carolyn Harper, Strathclyde Police sub-divisional officer for the Cranstonhill area of the city, confirmed that there had been a series of complaints from businesses in the area.

"We have liaised with them as well as agencies who help prostitutes and passed on the companies’ concerns to them," she said. She confirmed that if they had complaints about the prostitutes, the women were arrested and reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

She added: "Our force policy is one of prosecution and enforcement of the law when it is causing offence to people who have prostitutes outside their home or work."

Two prostitutes said they had been warned by drop-in centres they regularly attend not to work in certain streets around Anderston Square to avoid arrest.

One, aged about 35, who said she had been a prostitute since she left school and made her living by charging men 35 for full sex, said: " It means we are all getting bunched together which isn’t good for business. So we have to move elsewhere so we can find the punters."

Her friend said: "The situation on the streets is getting worse and younger and younger girls are now working to feed drug addictions. We are seeing loads of girls who are obviously under 16. We try and stop them working but they are addicted to smack [heroin]. There’s no telling them. "

Pauline McNeil, the MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, who works closely with the police, prostitute drop-in centres and prostitutes themselves, said: "In effect the tolerance zone - or ‘understanding’ between the police and the girls has been broken up because of the development."

She added: "I’ve had a lot of complaints from businesses about the prostitutes.

"As a local MSP I have a duty to protect my constituents but I do feel that we cannot just push the girls out of the area. What needs to be done is to concentrate on getting the girls off the streets and then look at ways of punishing men, through the courts, who pick up prostitutes."

A Scottish Enterprise spokesman said the prostitutes were still a problem but that as more offices and residential blocks were built, they would gradually "move away".

He said that because offices in the new developed included 24-hour financial services companies, staff were walking around the area late at night.

"In terms of the prostitutes being a problem - it is a problem which is going away as more and more offices and residential buildings go up," he said. " Now it’s become a hive of industry - it’s busy all the time and well lit, which deters the prostitutes from coming here."

A spokeswoman for Direct Line Insurance said: "We are aware that this is a problem - but a diminishing one.

"We give our staff the opportunity to have personal alarms if they feel threatened or intimidated in any way."