Calls have been made by two of the city’s MPs for the high-profile naming and shaming of kerb crawlers to help drive street prostitution out of Bradford.
Registration plates of vehicles used by people trawling the streets to pay for sex should be emblazoned on posters or published online to clamp down on prostitution, Bradford West MP George Galloway has said.
And Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe agreed that the public shaming of offenders could prove a useful weapon in ridding the city of its red light reputation.
The calls come after the Telegraph & Argus reported yesterday that almost five years since the self-styled Crossbow Cannibal Stephen Griffiths began his killing spree in the city’s red light district, people complain that prostitution is still rife in Thornton Road, City Road and the areas in between.
Mr Galloway, Respect MP for Bradford West, said: “These people should be named and shamed. If it is through posters in local communities or if it is through a website where it is made public, then why not?”
He added: “I certainly don’t have a liberal attitude on prostitution. I met the sister of one of the murdered women shortly after I was elected and I made my attitude clear.
“Prostitution should be hammered, but it should be the men, the kerb crawlers, who are shamed and embarrassed. As we know, most of the women are driven by poverty and drug addiction.”
Mr Galloway said plain-clothes officers could be tasked with photographing the registration plates of kerb crawlers which could then be publicly displayed to deter offenders.
He said: “You just need a couple of plain-clothes officers with cameras and it would stop. The problem with prosecuting the women is that they keep going out to earn the money to pay the fines. It’s self-perpetuating.”
However, he accepted that crackdowns in one area were likely to move the problem elsewhere.
Mr Galloway said another problem could be accidentally identifying someone who was driving suspiciously but happened to be innocent. But he said he was sure there was a way this issue could be overcome.
Mr Sutcliffe added: “I’m all for naming and shaming kerb crawlers, provided they are actually all kerb crawlers.
“I think it would work, just as long as there is that safeguard that you are only targeting genuine kerb crawlers and not just anyone in that area.”
For some, however, the risk of wrongly naming and shaming an innocent driver is too great.
Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem) said: “One can imagine the horrendous implications of wrongly accusing someone.
“In Bradford this problem returns on a regular basis and the only answer is a sustained commitment by the police to bringing prosecutions for soliciting and for kerb crawling.
“Efforts should also be made to find out if trafficking is taking place and, if so, help is provided to the girls and women forced into prostitution.”
Mr Ward said the names of people convicted of such crimes were already published in the Telegraph & Argus and it would be wrong to name and shame people before they got to court because they should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
The idea of naming and shaming kerb crawlers has been tried in parts of the UK before, as well as abroad.
Many of the schemes involve publicising the identities of kerb crawlers after they have been convicted in court.
But one outreach worker said this was the wrong approach to dealing with a hugely complex problem.
Bruce Pearson, of the Sunbridge Road Mission Church, spends up to 15 hours a week offering support to women working on the streets.
He said while he understood the motivation for targeting kerb crawlers, in his view it would be better to plough these resources into trying to get the women off the streets through making them feel valued and helping them out of poverty or addiction.
Mr Pearson said no other social problem was solved through naming and shaming.
He said: “If you are going to tackle obesity or over-eating, you don’t stand and point a finger at a fat kid.”
Superintendent Vince Firth, Partnerships Lead for Bradford District, said: "The Prostitution Strategic Partnership, which includes representatives from the police, Probation Service, Health and Bradford Council, is currently looking at a number of different ways to tackle the issue.
"Among the options being considered is publishing details of those who are convicted of offences, such as kerb crawling.
"The police are committed to working with partners to tackle the issue, as well as providing support and treatment for street workers in the city.
"We would be happy to meet with Mr Galloway to discuss his concerns."
The issue of prostitution is set to be discussed at a meeting of the Council’s Bradford West Area Committee at City Hall tonight.