A dedicated garda unit that has been put in place to tackle prostitution in Dublin's north inner city is targeting the pimps who control the industry, the Herald can reveal.
The unit, which has three officers working under an inspector, is based at Store Street Garda Station and has been carrying out surveillance of brothels and prostitution networks in the north of the city for several months.
All of the intelligence gathered is passed on to the recently established Child Protection and Human Exploi- tation Unit which is trying to build cases against pimps and brothel madams.
"They have carried out very few arrests since they were set up," said a senior source.
"They are looking at the prostitution issue from the point of view of human trafficking and the protection and safety of women working in the sex industry.
"This is all about gathering intelligence and constantly monitoring the prostitution network as it exists.
"A major aspect has been engaging with the women working as prostitutes - the gardai are not looking to prosecute or criminalise these women at all.
"Prostitution is a huge money-spinner for criminals, and that is who the focus is on."
The work of the unit comes at a time when the force's other major drive against prostitution in the north inner city, codenamed Operation Kerb, "is still operational".
"Operation Kerb targets street-level prostitution which is a problem that goes away and comes back again, but Kerb is up and running at the moment," the source said.
The operation was set up by officers in the area covered by the Bridewell Garda Station and is aimed at targeting those involved in soliciting for the purpose of prostitution.
It involves undercover female officers posing as prostitutes targeting sex-seeking kerb-crawlers and has resulted in more than 100 convictions.
Garda operations targeting prostitution are connected with a high-profile community policing initiative in the north inner city led by Chief Supt Pat Leahy, and officers working with the Dublin-based Ruhama agency, which helps women involved in prostitution.