Tuesday 23 October 2018

Brothels are thriving after cutbacks in garda operation

The vice squad reduction is good for news for pimps, writes Daniel McConnell

Criminals operating brothels have benefitted from the significant downgrading of Operation Quest, the garda crack team tackling prostitution in Dublin.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the team, which up until recently comprised 12 officers, has been reduced to just two, making the job of tackling prostitution virtually impossible, according to garda sources.

This means the pimps operating the apartment brothels will be able to conduct their illegal enterprises with a great deal less scrutiny from the gardai -- a move that has angered many in the force.

Ireland has seen a dramatic rise in the number of women coming here for prostitution since 2005, and many advertise daily as escorts on dedicated websites.

As of this weekend, there are over 230 escorts being advertised on the Escort Ireland website for the Dublin area alone, and it is believed there are over 500 prostitutes listed as escorts in Ireland.

As a result of the garda cutbacks, which includes a major scale-back on overtime, it now will be virtually impossible to effectively tackle the growing sex industry in Ireland, senior sources have admitted.

Geraldine Rowley, of Ruhama, the group that helps women working in the sex industry in Ireland, said that even with the recession, there is no evidence of the sex trade decreasing.

"We are meeting an increasing number of victims with a number of referrals coming to us each week,'' said Ms Rowley.

She said that the downgrading of the Quest operation is a "grave disappointment" which exposes the women working in the industry to serious risk.

"Quest was a big success. We are very disappointed. We need a dedicated specialised unit. Prostitution is now operating freely in every town in every country.

"The women are terrified and for those running it there is literally no risk to them at the moment. They are operating with impunity."

Gardai and Ruhama have also pointed out that, while many girls featured on the escort websites are described as being "independent sole traders", in fact a large number of them are under the control of pimps.

Last December, Carlow man TJ Carroll was arrested and charged with running brothels in rural towns around the country.

Such an operation took a considerable amount of manpower and, with the budget cutbacks, such resources are not as freely available.

Gardai have been attempting to use the testimony of girls against their pimps, but often with little success.

However, despite its growth over the past few years, it seems escorts are now not immune from the economic slowdown with so-called 'recession-busting' deals on offer on the websites.

Whereas the normal price for an hour for an escort in Ireland can range between €150 and €250, the recession deals are offering an hour for less than €100. Ireland has become a popular destination for touring escorts, as the prices charged here are three times that of the same services in mainland Europe.

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