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NZ: Sex and the city (Auckland)

Publish Date: 14 Apr 2009
Source: Manukau Courier
By: Hannah Norton

STREET WORKERS: The mess left behind by prostitutes and clients on Hunters Corner is causing concern for locals. Photo: Timi Tikkanen.
TAKING CONTROL: Three local businessmen, from left: John McCracken, Stephen Grey and Pat Taylor, are volunteers in the Papatoetoe Community Patrol. Photo: Timi Tikkanen.

Volunteers are joining forces to tackle the antisocial behaviour of street sex workers – and they’re taking the fight right to the punters’ letterboxes.

They’re sending "clients" little pink letters in the post in the hope their spouses will realise their partners are kerb-crawling.

The 15 members of the Papatoetoe Community Patrol say the condoms and human waste left behind by prostitutes and punters at Hunters Corner were bad enough.

But schoolchildren being propositioned by men looking for sex was the final straw.

They’ve banded together and now they’re out at night trying to clean up the streets.

Hunters Corner business association chairman John McCracken says waste left after the night-time activities has led some businesses to shut up shop in Papatoetoe and relocate elsewhere.

"We’re having condoms left in our carparks, in our doorways, human waste left against our walls," Mr McCracken says.

Schoolchildren from Papatoetoe Central Primary, Papatoetoe High School and Papatoetoe Intermediate walk past the area on the way to school.

"The prostitutes’ clients are also approaching the children when they are walking to school – that’s where we draw the line."

And the problems also spill into residential areas, he says.

"They’re out in the middle of the street, stopping vehicles, yelling, bashing cars."

Papatoetoe Community Board chairman Stephen Grey says the community patrol talks to the prostitutes’ clients and advises them of the risks of street soliciting. They don’t approach the sex workers because prostitution is legal.

Volunteers note car registration numbers and later get names and addresses. Then they send letters warning customers of the dangers of sleeping with street workers.

The letters are sent in pink envelopes with addresses "handwritten by a female, scented with little butterflies stuck on the front" to catch the attention of the men’s spouses.

When the Manukau Courier went out with the patrol recently the sex workers were well behaved, something Mr Grey says has improved considerably since the patrols started.

But when the Courier revisited the following morning it found the area littered with condom packets and human waste such as faeces and vomit.

That’s something both passing locals and the patrol desperately want to see gone.

The community patrol also wants street prostitution made illegal and Mr Grey says sex workers are safer in brothels.

Patrol volunteers are also at risk and face ongoing violence and death threats.

"We’ve had three of our members assaulted."

The group funds its own vehicles and is already on to its fourth.

"The others have been wrecked. Kicked, smashed, rammed," Mr Grey says.

South Auckland community worker and transgender advocate Mama Tere, who works with the sex workers to help them get off the streets, agrees their behaviour is an issue.

"The girls are being boisterous and violent to each other, clients and the public. They are high on drugs and carry on working while kids are walking to school. I don’t want schoolchildren to see that behaviour."

Patrolling could get nasty, despite volunteers having good intentions, she says.

"I don’t want to see anyone else get hurt. I’m in support of change but I believe it is an issue that needs to be addressed by central government."

She too wants to see street prostitution made illegal.

"That way cops don’t just have to drive past it – right now they have nothing."

Mr Grey says Papatoetoe is a community of good people and a pleasant place to live.

"Yet it’s being dramatically dragged down by a very small minority.

"The message is to the male community: If they want to come kerb-crawling, don’t come to Hunters Corner because they will be identified and they will be notified in the mail."
 

Copyright © 2009 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
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