Newport's Commercial Road, which has become a notorious thoroughfare thanks to problems with prostitution and drugs Image: Could not subscribe, try again laterInvalid Email Walking into Pill - the historic district of Newport which has become notorious in recent years - Christmas decorations flutter in the wind over the welcoming lights of The Picton pub.
It could be any 21st century city street. Except this is Commercial Road. The problem of prostitution has made it one of the most notorious thoroughfares in Britain. It hit the headlines last year and again this week, with claims women and girls as young as 12 were being sexually exploited and on the streets from 6am. But it doesn't stop there. There are stories of women waiting for men to leave the local mosque and jumping into their cars at the same time to try and get their 'business'.
One even urinated on the floor inside the mosque. Residents say they have called the police having seen prostitutes being beaten by their pimps. Women who are not 'on the game' are subjected to lewd gestures by passing men who think they are. And there are tales of nearby housing used by women to take their clients. When we visited on an earlier occasion in we saw several women working Commercial Road in just a few minutes. In fact, within a minute or two of parking his car our reporter was asked if he was looking for trade.
My neighbour said last week she called the police when at 6am she saw a pimp beating up a girl outside. Richard Swingler Pam said the women made no bones about what they were offering.
They are attracting kerb crawlers and local residents are getting propositioned. Richard Swingler Pam said a passing driver even made obscene gestures at her with his tongue — as though he thought she was on the game. But, Pam says, these are different. But they were normal in the day and in the night they would go and do their business elsewhere.
They are not ordinary prostitutes. They need to get the money for drugs. Farooq Dastgir and his friend Ali Ghafar worship there. They are only after money. They have even attacked older people to get their money out of them, to try and blackmail them by telling their family that the man has been to bed with them. In recent months, police and ambulance crews have been targeted by children — some as young as 13 — firing commercial grade fireworks at them.
Video Loading Click to play Tap to play The video will start in 8Cancel Play now Farooq said he feared for the youth of Pill growing up in that environment. Drugs are sold on the street like sweets. People are coming from outside the area because it is a playground for criminals. But we are living here. She was told there was a bathroom inside. She came into the lobby area and urinated there.
Boss Tracey Holyoake said working girls were often seen hanging around the disused public toilets at the bottom of the street. They are there from early in the morning until late at night.
Police drive past them like they have a designated area. They often drive past them and do nothing. As much as they are vulnerable — and I get that because they are young — we have got residents here who are just as vulnerable. She was a foreigner doing it to support their family.
People from all over the world live here. At night, takeaway restaurants light up Commercial Road with garish signs. The Bana chip shop has armchairs and a pool table for customers. Men hang out and chat as they have their hair cut in shops dotted along the street.
Ali Halmat, of Star Barbers, is fed up with the situation. A drunk clutching a can of strong cider stumbles in front of a parked car. The streets are dirty. Central to it is an ugly derelict Kwik Save. The misspelt graffiti is ugly and unfinished. Graffiti on the long-derelict Kwik Save Image: You pay for fun?
It was like condom city. Some of the women appeared to be Eastern European. The people who live and work here say this would not be tolerated in somewhere like Caerleon. But Pill does not have the advantage of being picturesque. Sally and Farooq both laid part of the blame at the feet of lorry drivers who park in Pill. The girls go up and they knock on the windows. They park their lorries there because they know they will get what they are looking for. But since all this exploded there does seem to be more of a police presence.
The police are saying they are going by the guidelines to get them support and get them off the streets. Every time they are challenged they say they are working with partner agencies. Older people might be scared because on one corner might be these women and on another might be someone who looks rather intimidating. And people are scared to talk because of the possibility of reprisals. Richard Swingler On a visit to Pill last year we spoke to a year-old prostitute who did not want to give her name.
As she and our reporter chatted she waved to passers-by and smoked. I have to do this for my kids. They are too young. What else am I going to do? Richard Swingler Tony Southall was not unsympathetic to the plight of the women. That would help them to get help and support that would allow them to not prostitute themselves in the street — because that is soliciting and that is illegal. And there would be the odd person at the dock but the docks are not what they used to be. The red light district was about three or four individuals working from home but they were healthy and clean or whatever.
This is more of an Amsterdam. There are 54 ethnic minority groups in Pill and there are 6, people. There are 32 groups in our neighbourhood watch. If you have a problem, 10 people will come to support you. All they see is what is written in the papers. We have football clubs here that have been top of the league. We have Commonwealth gold boxers. So much talent comes out of Pill and that needs to be pushed.
But I have worked in London and in Cardiff and it happens everywhere. If we do not give the area an opportunity to grow what are we doing? We are just adding rubbish to it and putting people down and that is what the current situation is. The problem families from elsewhere are sent here. Drug dealers get free rein and prostitutes get free rein.
If they went to a nice middle class area of town they would not last 24 hours. If it is against the law in Stow Park Circle it is against the law here.
These diversionary tactics are paramount to help divert women away from this lifestyle and guide them into a safer future. Coun Wilcox has also written directly to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent asking for collaborative assistance with this issue.