Violence against sex workers should be reclassified as a hate crime, a new report has said, claiming that the risks associated with prostitution have increased "substantially" due to the recession and an influx of foreign workers.
As demand declines, sex workers are forced to take more risks to secure clients whilst lowering prices by as much as 50%, the report by Westminster City Council found.
With members of the community reluctant to notify the police of attacks, "perpetrators are likely become repeat offenders whilst victims of serious violence are not receiving the support they need," said Councillor Ian Rowley, Chair of the Sex Worker task group.
In a blog for the Huffington Post UK he argued: "This is about accepting that some criminals are effectively bullies who target people, not because they are a threat or have money, but because of the vulnerable minority with whom they are associated.
"Criminals often target sex workers and other 'hate crime' groups, before moving on to the wider public. Two of the most notorious serial killers Peter Sutcliffe and Gary Leon Ridgway initially murdered sex workers before targeting other women. So if we can get sex workers to report crimes, everyone gains."
Rowley called on the police to do more to engage with the community when brothels are closed down to ensure workers are not forced out onto the streets.
He said: “We believe that police officers should take tough and decisive action against brothels, especially those involved in other serious crimes, but that they need to develop a policy of working with local sex work projects to make sure that sex workers are not just thrown out onto the street where the environment is far more dangerous.”
The report stated that it had purposefully decided to stay away from "debates regarding the legality of sex work and whether the existence of sex work is acceptable, and instead based its research and recommendations "on the premise that violence against sex workers should not be tolerated."
The call to treat violence against sex workers as a hate crime came as two people were arrested for punching a man in the face merely for being an 'emo.'
The case is the first since Greater Manchester Police (GMP) adopted new crime recording procedures to cover members of alternative cultures.
It means GMP, the first force to do so, will record offences committed against goths, or other sub-culture groups, as hate crimes, as they do already with offences aimed at race, disability or sexual orientation.