- A massive increase in the amount of crack cocaine being
used by prostitutes is sending shock waves through the vice world, The
Observer can reveal.
- Prostitutes have traditionally been heroin users, but
in an attempt to maximise their profits crack dealers and pimps are deliberately
targeting the streetwalkers.
- The drug has been introduced to the prostitutes in 'party
packs', which contain £10 worth of heroin and two 'free' rocks of
crack. The trend is particularly prevalent in Bristol, where each of the
city's 200 prostitutes spends an average of £1,100 a week on crack.
Police estimate that this market alone is worth more than £11 million
- Switching to the highly addictive drug has made many
prostitutes so desperate for their next fix that they have lowered their
prices. Drug workers in Hull say dozens of teenagers are now offering sex
for as little as £5 in order to feed their crack habit. In London's
King's Cross, dozens of women offer passing men unprotected sex for £10
- the price of a single rock in the capital.
- One drugs liaison officer told The Observer: 'When you
mix crack and prostitution it becomes a 24-hour cycle. You go out and you
work long enough to go and get a rock, then you go away and use it and
then you go out and do the same all over again. Eventually you need some
sleep, so you take heroin in order to come down. Then you wake up and it
starts all over again. Crack has become the new pimp and the girls are
working harder than ever for it.'
- Jan, a drugs worker with Streetreach, a Doncaster-based
project that offers a range of support services, said: 'There has been
a definite increase in the level of crack ... the vast majority are using
both crack and heroin. Part of the reason is that the drug is just so much
- Yvonne Oliver, director of the Ripple Project, which
helps addicts in Bradford, says the increase in the use of crack also reflects
changes in the nature of vice girls. 'During my MA I carried out research
into adolescent prostitution and found the background of those involved
was changing. It used to be typically someone with low self-esteem ...
who would get involved and then start taking drugs in order to cope with
the reality of what they were doing. Now it is different. We find there
are lots of kids from good homes and good backgrounds who first get involved
in drugs, get addicted and then are forced into prostitution as a way of
supporting their habits.'
- Many of the girls say they were introduced to crack by
their pimps, who prefer it because the high it provides lasts minutes rather
than hours and the girls can spend more time on the streets earning money.
Crack also leaves fewer immediately obvious physical effects: heroin addicts
often look unwell and find it difficult to attract clients.
- 'Heroin was previously the drug of choice because one
of its effects is to make you not give a shit about what you are doing,'
says Oliver. 'But after a while, the sense of euphoria and oblivion that
heroin provides starts to fade and you end up taking it just to feel normal.
Crack is the next step and provides a new buzz.'
- Figures obtained from the latest round of compulsory
testing of offenders in Bradford show that half of all those charged with
theft, burglary and robbery are testing positive for either heroin or crack
cocaine. Half of those found to be using drugs have both heroin and crack
in their bloodstream when they are arrested.
- Asian drug dealers who would previously deal only with
heroin are now selling crack as well. In one recent seizure, an Asian teenager
was found to be holding 24 wraps of the drug. Detectives say they are determined
to prevent crack from taking hold in the way that heroin previously has,
but many users believe they are fighting a losing battle because the drug
is so powerful.
- Use of crack cocaine is spreading rapidly. In Scotland
in 1999, only 2 per cent of drug users said they used it. The most recent
figures show this has now increased to 7 per cent. In England and Wales,
drug seizures overall have risen by 10 per cent in the past year, but the
amount of crack cocaine seized during the same period has more than doubled.
- Nicola, 27, a former prostitute, spent 18 months working
on the streets of Bradford. She initially moved into vice in order to feed
her heroin habit but was quickly introduced to crack cocaine. 'Crack totally
and utterly took over my life. I never saw daylight ... I would be out
working, spend the money on crack and then go right back out to earn more.
Nothing else mattered apart from getting the money to get the drugs.'
- One night she was approached by a punter and agreed to
sex for £20. But as she reached into her bag for a condom, the man
suddenly produced a foot-long knife, stabbed her 43 times and left her
- Nicola survived and has now rebuilt her life. 'It was
absolutely horrendous - I nearly died - but in many ways the attack made
me a stronger and better person. It was the wake-up call I needed to turn
my back on drugs and prostitution.'
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited