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.
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.’
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 for dead.
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 a year.
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.
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.
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.
Prostitutes have traditionally been heroin users, but in an attempt to maximise their profits crack dealers and pimps are deliberately targeting the streetwalkers.
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.’