DUBLIN, Ireland - Forty-six people were identified last week as engaging in prostitution, gardai revealed on Wednesday.
Intelligence-led operations were carried out across 16 Garda Divisions, including Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Galway, Dublin, Kildare, Donegal, Cavan, Waterford, and Louth.
The Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) was supported in carrying out the operations by divisional Protective Services Units and local detectives.
As a result of the operations:
46 people were identified as having allegedly purchased sexual services from an individual involved in prostitution
65 safeguarding visits were carried out with a view to eliminating the possibility of sexual exploitation
112 individual sex workers were offered welfare advice and encouraged to take advantage of expert services
Five search warrants were executed in relation to the organisation of prostitution
€3,000 euro and $500 was seized from a man in the South Eastern Region who is suspected of being involved in organised prostitution
In addition, gardai say a number of positive outcomes were reported as a consequence of the targeted action:
1. A Liaison Officer attached to the Organised Prostitution Investigation Unit was contacted by an individual sex worker who is the victim of assault by a client. Gardai are currently investigating this matter and are following a definite line of inquiry.
2. Following a safeguarding visit from a member of An Garda Siochana in the South West, an individual working in the sex trade made contact with a local Garda Station to express their concern for several women believed to be trafficked for sexual exploitation. Inquiries are ongoing in this matter.
3. In the East of the country, a sex worker contacted a local Garda Station to report the location where they believe sex workers work for a "pimp" who is suspected of controlling their earnings. The location has been identified and inquiries are ongoing.
"A number of files are now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to determining if any criminal prosecution can be initiated," a gardai statement released Wednesday said.
"As part of its support for the United Nations' 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, An Garda Siochana has also launched a text message campaign which is aimed at offering confidential support to those working in the sex trade."
An Garda Siochana have two dedicated phone numbers for those in the sex trade in Ireland to contact to report a crime, seek advice or assurance as necessary.
Over 400 messages have already been issued to sex workers this week, and this initiative will continue in the coming days. The text message, which includes the details of available services, is sent in English, Romanian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
"This ongoing work is all in an effort to strengthen our link with those involved in the sex trade in order to increase trust and raise greater awareness of the services that are available to them," Detective Chief Superintendent Colm Noonan of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said Wednesday.
"The Organised Prostitution Investigation Unit within our bureau regularly carries out safeguarding checks of people who are involved in the sex trade. This is especially important so that gardai can identify anyone who may be vulnerable or who is being sexually exploited or trafficked. Our unit is also cognisant of those who are working independently in the sex trade."
"Any person involved in the sex trade can be assured that An Garda Siochana is here to listen and will treat any report of a crime against them very seriously and sensitively whether it is assault, theft, or criminality of another kind," Superintendent Noonan said.
Since 2017, the sale of sexual services in Ireland is legal. However, the purchase of sex is illegal.