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The light is fading in Holbeck Lane, a run-down, working-class neighbourhood south of Leeds city centre. But, as the street lights flicker on, an alarming scene comes into view. On one side of the road are groups of schoolchildren, girls and boys no more than ten years old, dressed in matching red sweatshirts and chattering about their day as they cling to their parents' hands.
On the other, a young woman in skintight leather trousers and stilettos is strutting up and down the pavement, touting for business from passing cars. Another stands just yards away, attracting honks from drivers as she lifts up her skirt to show off skimpy underwear. Neither is making any effort to conceal the seedy nature of their work. Indeed, one brazenly waves her cigarette at a young girl, who squeals: 'Look, mummy! Holbeck Lane is Britain's first and only 'legal' red light district where police turn a blind eye however the area has not only seen sex crimes double in the area but also witnessed the new threat of paedophiles.
To most, this would be a shocking and distressing sight. But, for Holbeck locals, it's a daily occurrence. Since October , when the scheme was introduced as a 'month pilot', street walkers have flocked here. There are now around prostitutes — aged between 16 and 50 — with up to 30 working each night.
The hours of operation of the so-called 'managed area', supposedly monitored by the police, are 7pm to 7am. Yet this scene unfolded in the middle of the afternoon. Worse than the behaviour of the prostitutes, say locals, are the kerb-crawlers — men who cruise the streets, often in groups, in search of cheap, anonymous sex. But now there is a new threat: paedophiles on the prowl targeting babies. That's right. Three weeks ago, just after 6pm on a weeknight, a year-old grandmother was pushing her four-month-old grandson in a buggy when a man in a car pulled up beside them, rolled down his window and asked: 'How old is it?
As the woman walked away, the man called after her: 'Give me an hour with it and I will bring it back. A relative, who didn't want to be named, told the Mail the incident had shaken the family to the core.