After three months behind locked gates the dust may have settled on some of East Sydney’s street prostitution sites -“ but debate over whether road closures have actually fixed the problem goes on.

East Sydney gay men and lesbians quietly took their places among their neighbours at a public meeting this week to discuss road closures aimed at stopping street prostitution along St Peter’s Lane and Forbes Street.

While most at the meeting spoke in favour of the closures, others said they had only moved the street sex workers a few blocks down the road.

Nothing has changed -“ they’re still there any time of the day,” one Bourke St resident said.

The meeting was organised by Bligh MP Clover Moore, who has started a petition calling for effective, long-term solutions for street prostitution in residential areas, and called on Premier Bob Carr to support a whole-of-government approach to fixing problems between residents and sex industry workers.

Dave Darcy, Kings Cross Police commander, said he agreed the road closures were only a stop-gap measure: The ultimate solution is safe-house brothels in some locations -“ I’m not saying that’s around here. [But] from the letters I’ve received … the closures have made a huge difference.”

East Sydney brothel owner Eve Cook said while the sex industry agreed with street prostitution taking place in legal areas, many of the prostitutes did not want to work on William St because of its high visibility.

Cook, who also works for the Sex Workers Outreach Project, said she had not heard of any residents facing homophobic abuse from the street sex workers or their clients.

Before the closure, St Peter’s Lane had been a decades-old transvestite prostitution site. In the past three months, it has been used by Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School parents to pick up and drop off students.

The three-month trial was due to end this week but a South Sydney Council spokesperson said the barriers would stay in place until Council debated the issue in early August.

Letters have been sent to East Sydney residents calling for their opinions on the trial.

The meeting also touched on policing in the Kings Cross Local Area Command and the use of sniffer dogs in random drug searches.

Responding to criticism from members of the audience that drug detection dogs were only targeting small-time drug users, Supt Darcy said the dog patrols were picking up one to three suppliers every time they were used.

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