By Emma Birchley Sky News Reporter
Updated: 09:11, Wednesday July 11, 2007
A new drive has been launched to decriminalise the sex trade by the English Collective Of Prostitutes.
A working girl in Ipswich
But would such a move be supported by the working girls of a town shaken by the murders of five prostitutes?
After seven months, the shadows of last winter's killings have still not lifted from Ipswich.
Fewer women are prepared to work the streets of the red light district, fearing for their safety.
Paige has no choice. She's an alcoholic, uses crack cocaine and has debts to repay.
"I owe quite a lot of money, so that's why I do what I'm doing now," she says.
But she says business has been tough since the zero-tolerance policy to kerb-crawling was introduced in the town in March.
At least 64 men have been arrested already.
The English Collective Of Prostitutes, which is calling for the sex trade to be decriminalised, says the move would help provide safe places for the women to see clients.
Maxine agrees. She worked alongside the murdered women, scored drugs with them and even shared squats.
Prostitution is dangerous work
"I think it would probably be better if they did legalise it. A lot of problems would be sorted. Girls would be safer and also the clients wouldn't have to worry," she explained.
Drug rehabilitation projects like ICENI have been helping ther women kick their habit and get off the streets.
But the scheme's director is concerned that decriminalising prostitution is too simplistic an approach.
"I do not believe you can eradicate it, " said Brian Tobin. "I think you need to manage it more efficiently."
ICENI is attempting to help Lou to come off heroin and crack.
Since her friends were killed she's reduced the time she spends working the streets.
It used to be every night, now she comes out three or four times a week.
But she believes that while legalisation might keep some girls safer, those who want to avoid the system would be at even greater risk.
"It could be more dangerous, it's going to send some girls further underground," she said.
The murders have made Maxine rethink her life. She rarely works as a prostitute these days, but many others remain trapped in a world of selling sex to fund a habit.