Hightown Residents Campaign Against Prostitution

12 April 2013, 16:43 | Updated: 12 April 2013, 17:41

A petition has been handed in to Luton Borough Council by the Hightown Against Prostitution campaign group.

The petition of 2,000 signatures is calling for action to be taken to clean up the Hightown area from prostitutes and pimps.

Shahzad Khadam runs a convenience store on Old Bedford Road and has been telling Heart how serious the problem is.

He says prostitutes can be seen caring out sexual acts publicly and items like condoms and needles are often left behind.

As well as being approached by prostitutes himself he's been spat at and bitten.

He says this behaviour is impacting on business:

"My customers are afraid to stop outside, even my suppliers are afraid because they've had prostitutes jump into their car, they don't want to park they don't want to stop here"

A disabled woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Heart she's scared to leave her flat

Her children are worried about her being shot.

She says she has to close the blinds when her grandchildren come over so the can't see what the prostitutes are doing outside.

The campaign group Hightown Against Prostitution claim prostitutes are 'looked after' by local churches who give them food, clothing and even condoms.

Instead they want to see efforts put in from the council to get them off the streets.

A statement from Council Leader Hazel Simmons claims action has been taken: 

"We are fully aware of the issues and have complete and total sympathy for all residents who are suffering at the moment. What they are having to put up with at the current time is unacceptable.

"I wish there was a simple solution, I really do. But this will take some time. The crime of kerb crawling and paying for sex is of course primarily an issue for the police but it is a very complex issue and is going to require committed partnership working over a period of time.

"The Council for its part is doing absolutely everything in its power to help deal with the problem. We are working closely in partnership with the police, health services and voluntary agencies to ensure that all possible action is being taken to resolve this complex and challenging problem."

The Council has listened to the concerns of residents at public meetings and by knocking on doors and have taken a range of actions as a result. Some examples include:

* The Council operates a dawn patrol clean-up operation six days a week. This is where a team goes out at 4am, with a specific focus on prostitution and drugs, ensuring items such as condoms and needles are removed. The patrol teams cover a large area of Luton currently including 17 streets in the High Town area. Anyone with concerns about other problem areas can contact the Council as streets can be added to the route if a known problem is occurring.

* We have cut back shrubbery and bushes in some of the problem areas

* We've fixed all the street lighting in the Albion Court area - another problem area

* We are keeping a close eye on the bin stores of communal housing areas to make sure they are locked and we are also looking to replace doors to make them more secure.

* We are in the process of installing an electronic barrier in Wenlock street car park - another problem area.  Residents have been asking for this for a period of time now, and it does represent a substantial investment of £6,500.

* We've put up CCTV signs up in problem areas and have also installed mobile CCTV cameras;

* We've installed gating in problem areas

* We have helped set up a Neighbourhood Watch in the area