New laws push street prostitutes out of Leith

THERE are fears prostitutes moved out of their traditional Leith haunts have begun working streets less than two miles away.

Residents in Craigentinny have complained about an increase in street workers in the area, who have propositioned residents.

The complaints centre on a phone box at the end of Craigentinny Avenue North where a group of women are understood to base themselves and are seen getting in and out of cars.

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The sightings sparked renewed calls for a tolerance zone in Edinburgh to prevent prostitutes being forced into residential areas. It comes after police revealed they had received only a handful of complaints about prostitution in Leith since new kerb-crawling laws came into force.

Support group Scotpep had previously warned that the new legislation would drive the problem into other areas of the city.

Jean Haigh, chairman of the Craigentinny Avenue North Residents' Association, said she had been approached by a number of concerned residents. She said: "I have seen these girls a couple of times and a neighbour of mine, who works night shifts, has also.

"We're concerned this could become a bigger problem, particularly as the nights draw in. We think prostitutes may be gradually moving in."

She said that while the number of prostitutes working in Leith may be on the decline, she felt sure complaints to the police were on the rise in Craigentinny.

One retired man was recently approached by one of the girls and propositioned while walking with his grandchildren.

Mrs Haigh added: "Residents have definitely phoned the police. It's saddening and very hard for us to deal with."

Local councillor Ewan Aitken said the return of a tolerance zone was the only answer. "We seem unable, or unwilling, to deal with the source of this problem and it is therefore unsurprising to me that prostitutes may have moved into this area. We need to acknowledge this, as much as we wish it didn't happen, otherwise one community after another will be affected."

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Until seven years ago, Edinburgh had an unofficial prostitution tolerance zone in what was then Leith's Coburg Street.

But as the area became more residential, women were moved to Salamander Street at Leith Links, eventually prompting an outcry from neighbours and an end to the zone.

The new laws, introduced last year, mean kerb crawlers now face a 1000 fine and a criminal record.

Scotpep has already reported how street workers are being forced into more secluded areas, away from traditional haunts. The Newhaven-based group's project manager Ruth Morgan Thomas said outreach workers would be sent to Craigentinny to investigate the reports.

Lothian and Borders Police were unable to confirm numbers of calls made about prostitution in the area.