STRIDES are being taken to tackle the problem of prostitution in Broadgreen after it emerged the number of sex workers in Swindon has risen by half in the last year and a half.

The number of women involved in the trade has spiralled from 25 in early 2013 to 38 today, and several agencies are taking a pro-active approach to dealing with the situation.

Dedicated workers including a vice officer with Wiltshire Police and a new sex outreach worker are engaging with the workers on the ground to address their needs and identify the best way to help them get out of the trade.

PC Luke Atkinson, beat manager for Broadgreen, said the problem had increased over recent months but new methods to reach out to sex workers were making a positive impact.

“The problem is one that has always been on our radar and it has got worse more recently than it has been in the past,” he said.

“A number of things have been tried in the past and have had some successes, but we are lucky now to have a dedicated vice officer who works specifically on this issue. She is committed to the work in the area around sex workers, almost all of whom are known to us already.

“It is a great asset to have a vice officer, because that means that the neighbourhood policing team are not spending all our time on this one issue because that would take up a great deal of our time.

“We are also lucky to have the new outreach worker who will work with the vice officer, and there are new measures we can use in our capacity alongside her to help these women get out of these situations.”

Sue Lee is the new sex outreach worker for the area.

“My main focus is on pro-active outreach,” she said. “It is a way to offer intervention to the girls to be able to sit in the back of the van and chat to us.

“A lot of the work is around sexual health and getting them into a drug and alcohol unit.

“They are entrenched in their lifestyles, and there is a certain thinking and behaviour pattern that goes alongside that.

“The key to tackling that is assertive outreach out of hours in the van, building a trusting relationship with these women. If you do not have that it is not going to work. I could probably name most of the sex workers in Swindon.

“I need to get a good snapshot of what is going on, and work out what needs to be done tomorrow.

“The women are often quite suspicious and it can take quite a while to build up a rapport.

“They are vulnerable and at risk of serious harm. Many of these women have endured significant trauma, and their lives are often chaotic.

“People can only make changes from places of safety and that is what we offer them.”