STREET sex is being sold in broad daylight under the noses of cops in a notorious UK red light district.
Pimps and sex workers are blatantly plying their trade less than 50 metres from a police patrol office set up four years ago to combat prostitution and drug dealing.
Cops created the hub following an investigation by The Sun in March 2019, highlighting sex and drug crimes in Swansea high street in south Wales.
It was part of an attempted crackdown on long-standing vice problems in the area, which were making investors in a nearby urban regeneration project nervous.
During lockdown the sex workers were forced to advertise online instead of finding “business” on the street. But prostitutes and drug users have now returned to the city’s high street near the main railway station.
They are charging punters as little as £20 for sex in a van parked up in a nearby side street or in a narrow lane known locally as “Condom Alley”, according to furious residents.
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'Third world ghetto'
On TripAdvisor the upper end of the high street is described as a "third world ghetto" and "full of smackheads".
Locals say the vice problem, which forced the closure of a historic pub in the area four years ago, has escalated again in recent months.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: "The girls are still here.
"It all went away during the pandemic, but just recently, over the last few months, they have been coming back.
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"The high street near the junction with Prince of Wales Road is still the main area where you see them, but there are pockets of them further out too.
"Most of the girls here have their regulars who are known to them, but you often see men pulling up in their cars looking for sex.
“But it's a risk for them when they get picked up in strangers' cars."
You often see men pulling up in their cars looking for sex
A sense of lawlessness pervades the area, with criminal activity sparking acts of violence.
One parent told how two brawling men ended up on the bonnet of her car.
The local mum-of-two, who was at a drop-in café in the area, said: "I'm aware the girls are sometimes on the street, but it's the drugs and violence that worries me too.
"Just over a year ago, I was stopped in traffic in the city centre, when a couple of men started fighting in the street in front of me.
"I don't know if they were drunk or drugged or both, but they ended up lying on my bonnet.
"I had the two kids in the car at the time and it was all very frightening.
I’ve seen young people lying flat on their face in the street too, sometimes coved in blood
“I didn’t know what to say to the children when they asked me why the men were on the bonnet of the car.
“I just sat there until they fell off out of the way and then I drove off immediately. I’m glad I was able to get away.
“I’ve seen young people lying flat on their face in the street too, sometimes coved in blood.
“They must be on drugs to end up in that state.
“My instincts are to help someone when I see them in trouble, but I am just too frightened to get involved nowadays.”
Residents spoke about not wishing to walk home at night through the high street because they get approached by women asking‘Want some business?’
The prostitutes often work in tandem with their pimps or drug-addicted boyfriends.
A local commented: "I'm sure some of them must make good money, but most are run by their pimps.
"Others are run by boyfriends who get these women on the game to fund their own drug habits.
“Many of the girls now operate with online escort services. There are thousands of them advertised.
"I suppose they think it's safer than being out on the streets."
Attempts are being made to improve Wales' second largest city, which bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2021 and 2017.
There is a plan to spend £500million revamping Swansea's centre, which will include new offices, homes and an events arena.
A local businessman, who also did not want to be identified, said: "Ever since The Sun Online article in 2019 highlighting the problem with sex and drugs in the high street, the council have put more and more money into trying to sort out the problem.
"Since then, the police have now taken over the bottom floor of a residential block of flats as a patrol house on the corner with Matthew Street and High Street.
"It's right next door to where the girls parade on the pavement so they can observe the guys who stop to pick up the girls.
"Then they nip out and arrest them – or at least I think that’s the idea.
"The council were shocked to see the article and because they didn't want the bad publicity to put off the investors who are putting up millions of pounds to redevelop this area.
"The council hopes the reinvestment will bring much needed businesses and jobs here and don't want to see the sex trade continuing.”
When the 2019 story appeared, Swansea Women’s Aid warned that the ensuing police crackdown would do more harm than good.
Police chiefs at the time let it be known that sex workers who refused an offer of “support" faced prosecution as part of their then-new initiative to tackle prostitution in the city.
But Swansea Women's Aid, which works with high risk female street sex workers and helps vulnerable women, immediately expressed anger and sadness over the decision.
The charity argued the move could stop sex workers from engaging with its support project.
Its chief executive, Lynne Sanders, said at the time: "Swansea Women's Aid strives at all times to have positive, meaningful engagement with all the women we work with.
"We are dedicated and passionate about continuing our outreach work and protecting some of the most vulnerable and at risk women within our community.
These are amongst the most vulnerable women who are exploited
"The solution to stopping the abuse of women is not by criminalising them. It is by holding the abusers to account.
"We have real concern…these are amongst the most vulnerable women who are exploited and coerced and the police approach could alienate them.”
Swansea council has not responded to requests for comment from The Sun.
A spokesperson for South Wales Police said: "Officers patrol the area and engage with the local community.
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“We continue to work closely with our partners and have structured processes to address the wider vulnerabilities associated with sex workers and substance misuse.
"We also maintain a visible policing presence to deter and prevent criminality, using a proportionate policing response as and when required."
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