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Updated February 15, A major crackdown on massage parlours and brothels across Adelaide has forced sex workers into risky private work where they are more vulnerable to violence and crime, according to the Sex Industry Network SIN. Police have been accused of aggression and threatening behaviour during a flurry of raids since September that have resulted in the closure of well-established brothels and sex workers who are too scared to report crimes against them.
Lucy [not her real name] was working at an Adelaide sex work establishment during a police raid late last year and said the experience was terrifying. Sex workers were then asked for their telephone numbers but when Lucy refused she said she was threatened with a home visit. Police officers in full uniform took sex workers' car registration details, working names, and, according to Lucy, they told workers they would be arrested unless they left the premises immediately.
No way in hell am I going to go to police and ask for help when they are targeting us. It is also illegal to manage a brothel, receive money paid in a brothel, knowingly lease accommodation to be used as a brothel, or employ or procure a person to become a prostitute. SIN general manager Sharon Jennings said she had been inundated with phone calls from sex workers frightened by the change in policing. Ms Jennings said police in the past, usually in plain clothes, would stop by establishments and have a "nice sit down coffee and a bit of a chat".
That has changed with raids ending in charges for workers, including receptionists "because they are the ones that handle the money" and managers. It is unclear how many sex work establishments have been shut down since the apparent crackdown began last September, but Ms Jennings said the scale of the police operation was unprecedented. She said a number of establishments in Adelaide that had been left alone by police "for over 10 years, 15 years" are now finding themselves under scrutiny.
Police Licensing Enforcement declined an interview but a police spokesperson said "if there are specific allegations about police harassment we would request that those people put their concerns in writing and the proper course of investigation of complaints will be followed. SA Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said members of the sex industry had raised their issues with him directly. Shortly after the police raid, the establishment Lucy was working at was shut down, leaving her with no income.