No claim of 40 000 victims of trafficking for this big race held annually in Cheltenham. But it is interesting to see how the police describe the actual crimes that concern them in connexion with the sex industry – here, lap dancing clubs. Although there is some stuff about indecency and the reporter mentions sex trafficking, police concern seems to be about violent competition between people taking advantage of temporary licences for lap dancing.
The report illustrates something I’ve believed for some time: that women and sex are actually not the core issue. This is a struggle between the men in the centre – men in suits – and the men they fear, who live in alternative arenas of power and under different laws. This police report brings that out without the usual trappings of horror over the fate of women.
11 October 2010, This is Gloucestershire
Fears of organised gang crime and sex trafficking have prompted police to call for tough new laws on lap dancing in Cheltenham. Officers say the flurry of temporary strip clubs which spring up in the town during Gold Cup week sparks turf wars between agents and nightclub owners.
The borough council will consider today whether to adopt new government legislation, which would tighten controls – and police have urged councillors to rubber-stamp the move. Licensing officer Andy Cook said:
We support the adoption of this legislation as it will assist further in controlling such activity and help minimise associated incidents of disorder. Each year, during race week, the constabulary receives a few complaints from members of the public about such activity and the marketing which surrounds it. Regular checks are made on all licensed venues to ensure they are upholding the conditions of their licence.
According to police records, disputes between lap dancing agents and club owners in Cheltenham have led to a petrol bomb being thrown at a nightclub window. A bouncer was also hospitalised when an agent’s minders tried to attack a club manager who had employed girls without his approval.
Officers said lap dancers could earn up to £5,000 a week – making the industry an attractive prospect for criminal gangs and international traffickers. Police believe there are direct links between lap dancing and prostitution, drugs, pornography and illegal immigrants.
The council has also received complaints of “scantily-clad women” patrolling the town centre to attract business from racing fans. A report for today’s meeting said council officers found handbills providing “adult entertainment” all over the town in March. It also said there had been complaints of “indecent flyers being distributed and being left on the ground for children to find the next day”.
At the moment, licensed venues can transform into strip clubs if owners serve the council with a temporary event notice. During Gold Cup this year, six businesses served the borough with a notice, which meant they could hold events for up to a maximum of 96 hours as long as they informed the council and police.
The new powers under Section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 not only outlaw the temporary notices, but also give local authorities the power to impose tighter rules on lap dancing clubs by forcing them to apply for a sex establishment licence rather than a public entertainment licence.
Currently, the Blue Room in St Margaret’s Road is Cheltenham’s only licensed lap dancing club. If it is adopted, the new legislation will mainly be used to give the borough council more control over whether new clubs should be allowed to set up in the town. At the moment, councillors can only turn down applications for a lap dancing club on the grounds of crime, public safety and the protection of children. Today’s full council meeting will be held in the Municipal Offices at 2.30pm.