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Arrests of street prostitutes down by half over six years

54 prostitutes were arrested for loitering last year. The figure is less than half that of 2010. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

54 prostitutes were arrested for loitering last year. The figure is less than half that of 2010. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The number of street prostitutes arrested for soliciting has halved in recent years, as revealed in a comparison of official statistics, while experts point to a shift from ‘traditional prostitution’.

Police arrest data, presented in Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela, shows 54 prostitutes were arrested for loitering last year. The figure is less than half that of 2010, according to data requested by this newspaper. The data, provided by the police last year, shows a steady decline in the number of loitering arrests for prostitutes, with around 10 per cent fewer annually.

Former social worker Rachel Vella, who has worked closely with prostitutes for years, said clients were opting away from riskier street deals and towards new outlets.

“People wanting to pay for sex are feeling more comfortable going to other sources than street prostitutes.

People wanting to pay for sex are feeling more comfortable going to other sources

“We all know what these are,” Ms Vella said. “I don’t need to spell it out, they’re opening all across the island,” she said, declining to comment further.

The information on last year’s arrests, tabled by Mr Abela in response to a question from Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis, shows five were men and the remaining 49 women. Around one in five of the prostitutes arrested every year are men.

Other data shows that a quarter of the pimps arrested were foreign.  Of the 44 people held for living off the profits of prostitution since 2008, 11 were not Maltese.

Six of the 11 foreign pimps were Chinese. Police sources pointed to a possible link between Chinese workers and the “booming” massage industry.

Last year, this newspaper reported that work permits were being handed to foreign massage therapists at a rate of one a week, prompting concerns that a number of massage parlours were a front for prostitution.

The other foreign pimps were two Romanians, a German and a Pole, whose ages varied. While one Maltese national was a juvenile of 16, the average age was 30. The oldest was a Maltese man, 72,  arraigned in 2012.

Other figures tabled in Parliament last year shed further light on the island’s sex industry. Approximately 3,500 prostitutes were arrested for various offences from 2008. Of them, 20 were foreigners, including one Libyan, two Somalis and a Filipino, four Britons, a Brazilian and a number of Eastern Europeans.

The figures show that arrests in Ta’ Xbiex accounted for more than half of the cases on the island, at 1,929. Marsa followed with 1,357 cases and Gzira with 201.

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