Undercover operations to curb prostitution renewed

Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 01:00

A SENIOR garda has issued a strong warning that the force is to revitalise recently successful undercover operations targeting those seeking the services of prostitutes.

Supt Frank O’Brien, of Limerick’s Henry Street Garda station, said Garda stings would be set up again following recent concerns expressed by the business community in parts of the city.

Earlier this month two men were convicted at Limerick District Court of soliciting undercover gardaí for sexual services.

The men were arrested by gardaí as part of Operation Freewheel, which saw more than 20 men detained and charged with soliciting or importuning for the purposes of prostitution on dates between November 11th and December 4th, 2011.

The operation sparked controversy, with some of the men claiming entrapment. However, this was rejected by the courts.

Following the undercover sting, street prostitution in Limerick seemed to decline.

However, Supt O’Brien said the activity had since resurfaced and was causing concern among the public.

“Issues surrounding prostitution are surfacing again. Some concerns have been raised by the business community in the city centre, so we are revitalising our operation again.

“The final two cases resulting from Operation Freewheel were brought before the courts in recent days and others can take this as a warning that we will be focusing on targeting people seeking out the services of prostitutes,” Supt O’Brien said.

“There has been a significant concern raised again. We have seen the movement of certain people involved in prostitution from one area of the city to another area.

“Unfortunately the result of our operations can cause the problem to be moved around, but people can be warned that we are going to refocus our operations to target these areas that are now a cause of major concern to residents and the business community,” he added.

The senior garda – who along with Chief Supt David Sheahan, heads the Limerick Garda division – said that recent Garda undercover operations targeting street drug dealing had also proved “very successful”.

Operation Kelso was set up in 2010 by Limerick gardaí to target incidents of drug dealing and drug taking in daylight hours in the city centre, following concerns from the public.

Undercover gardaí based in the Garda National Drug Unit in Dublin were brought to Limerick to perform fake drug deals with known dealers.