UK: Sex Workers And Police Unite To Create Rapist Database

Jul 5, 2012
Crime
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by Diane Taylor

National Ugly Mugs scheme will urge prostitutes to register crimes and electronically alert them about potential dangers

The Home Office is set to launch a pioneering scheme to alert sex workers about people with a history of violence, including rape.

The scheme, which will launch in Manchester, will encourage sex workers to co-ordinate with police on a national scale, and also has the wider intent of taking murderers, rapists and other violent criminals off the streets.

It will enable intelligence about people with a history of violence to be fed into a national intelligence database, called the Serious Crimes Analysis Section.

Sex workers will be alerted by text, email or phone apps about people who have carried out rapes and other attacks. Online escort agencies, street sex workers and those working in brothels and saunas will all be able to access the warnings.

The National Ugly Mugs Pilot Scheme is based on a system that originated in Australia where sex workers alerted each other to violent customers they had come across. Similar schemes have been operating informally in some areas of the UK but this is the first time that information will be collated nationally. Some violent offenders move from one area to another to commit offenses and it is hoped that the improved intelligence sharing will prevent serial attackers from committing repeated offenses.

The Association of Chief Police Officers is backing the scheme.

The aim is to improve conviction rates of violent offenses, protecting sex workers and other members of the community from murder, rape and other violent attacks.

If sex workers do not want to report crimes directly to the police, they can go through local sex work projects, which can pass intelligence to the police anonymously.

The scheme will be managed by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, an umbrella organization of campaigners and academics who work to improve workers’ safety.

One Manchester-based street sex worker, Naomi, welcomed the new initiative: “I have been working on the streets for 17 years. I have experienced lots of attacks, rapes and attempted kidnap. It’s good to know that someone cares about what happens to us, and that sex workers and non-sex workers will be better protected.”

Alex Bryce, co-ordinator of the pilot scheme, said: “This is a groundbreaking initiative and will build on all the fantastic work of local schemes in improving the safety of sex workers. I believe that this scheme can and will save lives.”

Minister for equalities and criminal information Lynne Featherstone said: “This scheme encourages sex workers to report violent incidents so that others can be safeguarded in the future and more perpetrators can be dealt with.”

Merseyside police have pioneered projects working with sex workers to share intelligence about violent attacks and have an above-average rate of convictions for rapes carried out against sex workers and others.

Detective Superintendent Tim Keelan said: “What is unique in Merseyside is that we have a rape investigation team where dedicated detectives work with specially trained officers who link in with rape victims within an hour of an offense being reported.”

The Metropolitan police said that in 2010/11 there were 1,036 arrests made for prostitution-related offenses. In 2011/12 this number fell to 485 arrests.

Source: Guardian

More info about Ugly Mugs Project available here.

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