New police unit launched to protect vulnerable sex workers from exploitation

The initiative, called Project Amity, will initially see Exeter, Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall benefit from a newly formed network of PCSOs with a specific remit, to work alongside partner agencies and charities, to engage with those involved in sex work, build trust and reduce the risk of harm and exploitation across the two counties.

Devon and Cornwall Police has announced the launch of a new network, set up to reduce vulnerability and harm within the sex worker community throughout Devon and Cornwall.

The initiative, called Project Amity, will initially see Exeter, Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall benefit from a newly formed network of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) with a specific remit, to work alongside partner agencies and charities, to engage with those involved in sex work, build trust and reduce the risk of harm and exploitation across the two counties.

Each year thousands of crimes against those within both the online and offline sex work industry go unreported. Sadly, most women in the sex trade are vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked.  Human trafficking is when people are brought to, or moved around a country or area and forced to work, or do other things they don't want to do. Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can be victims of this crime.

Working in the sex trade may not be a choice and there are those who don’t feel able to report abuse or escape their situation.

The Project Amity teams will see PCSOs dedicated to this project, working alongside their core role to build trust and confidence, signpost people to partners and safeguard the most vulnerable in our society. It is hoped that by building relationships with vulnerable sex workers, they will feel confident to report exploitation and abuse and seek help and support in escaping their situation.

Force lead for sex work vulnerability, Detective Superintendent Gary Bunn said: “Sex work and the associated stigma in this area has historically led to a reluctance by those involved to report violent and sexual offences to the police. This increases the risk of violence against sex workers and frustrates our efforts to tackle those intent on causing serious harm. 

“I’m very proud of Project Amity. Our PCSOs are fantastic ambassadors of trust, spending much of their day interacting with the public directly. They know their patches and communities thoroughly and play a crucial role in keeping people safe.

“Everybody has a right to live safely and without the fear of harm. Preventing, detecting and reducing violence against women and girls is a Force priority. Project Amity will help us connect with this hard-to-reach group and demonstrate our commitment to delivering a high level of victim-focussed service to all members of our communities.”

One of the partner agencies supporting this initiative is the Eddystone Trust which provides help and support around sexual health.

Service Development Lead (Prevention) for the Eddystone Trust, James Mead, said: “The Eddystone Trust is pleased to partner with Devon & Cornwall Police on Project Amity, an Initiative which puts the health, well-being and, most importantly, personal safety of women at the top of its priorities.”

For information, to report or to get help visit: Sex worker safety | Devon & Cornwall Police (devon-cornwall.police.uk)

For information about the Eddystone Trust visit: The Eddystone Trust | HIV & Sexual Health Services 

If you have been affected by crime, please visit victimcare-dc.org to access support services and information on your rights and how to navigate the criminal justice system. You can also call Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111 or Devon and Cornwall Police’s Victim Care Unit on 01392 475900.

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