By PC Lou Kuklinski
Street sex workers are at constant risk. The threats range from drug networks which may have some form of control over them; violent punters who are mainly complete strangers; and abusive partners who often have similar drug dependency issues.
In Swindon, specialist officers in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle are on hand to provide reassurance both for sex workers and the people seeking to help them.
Officers from the Adult Sexual Exploitation (ASE) team at Wiltshire Police work closely with the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) from the Nelson Trust charity to provide a joined-up approach in the Manchester Road area of the town.
Our officers keep a discreet watch on the activity at the trust's outreach van, gathering intelligence and ensuring that the SWOP team is safe.
The ultimate aim is to help the women to escape from the dismal situation in which they find themselves.
This can only be achieved by close co-operation. Fortunately in Wiltshire there is a multi-agency approach involving probation, drug and alcohol recovery, adult safeguarding, sexual health and children's services.
ASE officers and colleagues from the Nelson Trust share information regularly to ensure the daily risks to the women are managed.
It is understandable that the work we do with various partner agencies is not always apparent - because we try not to stand out.
But, although we are often in the shadows, we can reassure the community that we are committed to keeping everybody safe and tackling the sex work activity in the Broadgreen area.
People sometimes wonder why we don't actively seek to prosecute street sex workers. The answer is simple: it serves no benefit to anybody, including the local community, because the only sanction available to a court is a £100 fine. It would simply mean that the women would get back on the street to raise the money.
Criminalising sex workers is something Wiltshire Police will not do. But we take a different approach with the punters. Our officers regularly work a variety of night time hours to actively seek punters in the Manchester Road area and prosecute as necessary.
It is important for sex workers to see us regularly in the area as our presence encourages them to have the confidence to engage with police and radically improves our intelligence picture.
We are proud to be safeguarding vulnerable people - and those seeking to help them.
PC Lou Kuklinski is the Adult Sexual Exploitation Manager in the Public Protection Department at Wiltshire Police.
(Picture credit: Swindon Advertiser)
Read more on this: Carolyn Deverall (Service Improvement Officer for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson) writes in Angus' guest blog about her experience.