A confidential hotline for prostitutes to report dangerous punters faces closure unless it can find funding in a few weeks’ time.
The Ugly Mugs Scheme, based in north Manchester , allows escorts and other sex workers to give details anonymously which can then be handed to police.
Backed by Greater Manchester Police , the scheme has 200 sex workers and massage parlours in Manchester signed up.
Women can pass on details of violent or dangerous punters which are then circulated to other sex workers and passed to police, who hail the intelligence as ‘vital’.
Officers used Ugly Mugs last March to warn sex workers after three rapes and a sex assault were carried out in a single night in Ancoats.
Paranoid schizophrenic Thomas Hall, 33, was later caught and jailed indefinitely.
Since being set up 18 months ago, Ugly Mugs has collected intelligence on 11 other rapes and nearly 40 incidents of violence and robbery in Manchester then passed on to police.
The scheme, which works nationwide but is based in Miles Platting , was plunged into a funding crisis after an application to the EU Criminal Justice board was rejected.
Costing £9,000 a month to run, they now have until the end of March to find new funding or face closure.
Alex Bryce, manager of the Ugly Mugs scheme, said: “There is a lot of evidence that offenders target sex workers because they believe they are less likely to report it to police.
“From there they are seen to go on to target non-sex workers.
“The importance of Ugly Mugs is shown by the fact that of 48 victims in Manchester, 44 were only willing for information to only be fed to police anonymously.
Obviously the police would be missing intelligence about several incidents if the scheme didn’t exist – but it is a desperate battle for funding.
”Detective Inspector Simon Davies, from GMP’s sex offender management unit, works closely with the Ugly Mugs scheme.
He said: “Even if a victim wants to remain anonymous their information can help us build intelligence on an offender.
“Ugly Mugs also helps with our investigations, for example we can appeal for information or witnesses.
“I’m sure if it continues it one day will provide that ‘golden nugget’ which helps us solve a case.
“The information which comes through Ugly Mugs to us is absolutely vital.”