The first nine months of a database pilot shows London having the highest number of reported crimes against sex workers in the UK. The ‘Ugly Mugs’ scheme has seen 58 incidents since July 2012 – half of them (26) being rapes or sexual assaults. Yet, less than a third of the victims (18) have been willing to report it formally to police.
Andrew Boff, Leader of the GLA Conservatives, author of the Silence on Violence report, and national champion of the Ugly Mugs scheme said: “London is increasingly a safe place but it is unacceptable that sex workers see it as increasingly dangerous. The Ugly Mugs pilot shows that we’re talking serious crimes such as rape, violence, homophobic and racist hate crime, yet very few victims go to the police. The police must start regularly and formally engaging with sex workers to remedy this. There must be standard codes of police engagement with sex workers in place, and crimes against them should be termed as ‘hate crime’. Westminster Council’s report on sex workers details the cost benefits of improving sex workers’ safety – so those who oppose acting on this no longer have a leg to stand on.”
Started as a pilot scheme last July and funded by the Home Office, the ‘Ugly Mugs’ project shares information on violent and potentially dangerous clients on a database. Sex workers can anonymously report rapists and robbers, helping police to build intelligence and identify serial offenders. Police can also circulate descriptions of dangerous offenders to workers in the industry.
Alex Bryce, Manager of the National Ugly Mugs scheme said: “Sex workers are clearly targeted by dangerous individuals because of what they do and often don’t feel they will be taken seriously by the police. Treating these crimes as ‘hate crimes’ has clearly made a difference in Merseyside where sex workers are far more likely to report incidents to the police and, as a result, they have regular convictions of dangerous serial offenders. If introduced nationally this would make a bold statement to sex workers and criminals who target them.”
*Image courtesy of Ugly Mugs