As DAVID LEASK discovers in today's Crime on Your Street investigation, the West of Scotland has a booming brothel business -
SOME men call it "the DIY run". They are going to a brothel for a Sunday afternoon quickie – but they tell their partners they have run out of nails, or paint.
"It's the DIY store excuse," said one Glasgow detective whose job is to try and curb the city's thriving indoor prostitution rackets.
"People think vice is something that happens late at night. Well, we see wee peaks of business at lunchtime and before and after the school run. Brothels are 24/7."
They are also great money earners.
Police admit they do not know the full scale of an indoor vice industry dominated by major organised crime organisations. But the internet – and its adverts for "escorts" – provides some clues.
In a two-month period this year, Strathclyde Police identified 2067 "profiles" of female prostitutes advertising online in the West of Scotland. Of these, they found 898 were definitely "active".
Even if these women work only 60 hours a month at £100 an hour, they (and their underworld controllers) could net £5million a month, or £60m a year in Strathclyde alone.
"These figures are conservative," said Clare McGuckien, the detective inspector responsible for the force's crackdown on vice.
"We only have statistics on the reported world, about reported crimes we have involvement in. There is a lot of criminal activity we are unsighted on."
Police may be "unsighted", but they are starting to get results against indoor prostitution.
Detailed figures for Crime On Your Street show 14 reports of brothel-keeping were made in 2011-12, five in a single beat, the usually busy Golf Echo 68 or "Govanhill West". That compares with 16 over the whole of the previous five years and six in 2010-11.
Police have worked long and hard to try and figure out who is working in Glasgow brothels – usually flats where just one woman works.
DI McGuckien is also responsible for the battle with people trafficking.
Despite major success against Chinese organised crime groups running Thai prostitution rings in Glasgow, she stresses it is not just foreign women working indoors.
Scots are too. And some of them have come from the streets – from traditional "red-light" district places like The Drag in Anderston and Glasgow Green, where almost all the prostitutes have chaotic lifestyles and drug or alcohol addiction problems.
Louise Belton deals with prostitutes for Glasgow Community Safety Services, the police and council joint venture. Services she runs have access to some 450 street prostitutes, a figure that is in addition to the 900 active escorts identified by the police.
The Drag has seen a slight increase in the number of offences related to prostitution over the last couple of years, as have beats around Glasgow Green and Collegelands, in High Street.
But Ms Belton believes the market is no longer divided simply into off and on-street prostitutes.
She said: "There are now almost three tiers of prostitution.
"The ones who are involved in 'on-street' have significant addiction problems, are heavily involved in the criminal justice system and are not run by pimps as such, although they are often encouraged by other girls or a boyfriend feeding a habit.
"There is a slight move off street for some women who still have addictions.
"They are not the stereotypical brothel glamour girls. These are girls who, for whatever reason, are trying to get away from the police and they are in a flat. But they have more of the charactistiastics of somebody involved in street prostitution.
"Then you have the huge range of women in off-street proper. You have women in there who have their kids in private school and big houses. They may have significant addictions but not a chaotic lifestyle.
"And you have women who have been trafficked into the country and are far more afraid of the consequences of going back to say, Nigeria, than they are of our police."
Ms Belton – and more widely authorities in Glasgow – take a strong line on prostitution compared with other Scottish cities.
"We regard it as a harm and do not think it has any place in our city," she explained. "We regard it as violence against women."
One of the problems with prostitution is that it never lives up to its media image.
"The girls don't wear a 'prostitute uniform' of thigh-high boots and mini-skirts," said one officer.
"This isn't Pretty Women and it can be hard to spot people involved in prostitution."
DI McGuckien wants people to look out for something different, for homes where there are lots of male callers and where single female tenants change frequently.
"What does a prostitute look like? How do they dress?
"A prostitute will look like any member of our society. It could be a man."
Like their clients, those selling sex for cash may well look like they just popped out for some DIY supplies.
80% RISE IN MEN CAUGHT KERB-CRAWLING
MORE men were found kerb-crawling in Glasgow last year than ever before.
Police caught 86 individuals cruising for paid sex in 2011-12, up 80% from 48 the year before.
More than half of them were spotted in the Broomielaw West beat, 47, up from four in 2010-11.
This beat covers most of The Drag – the traditional place in central Glasgow for punters to hook up with prostitutes.
People used to talk of Anderston as the "Red-Light District". Now they call it the "International Financial Services District" or Wall Street on the Clyde.
Detective Inspector Clare McGuckien said: "We usually target on-street prostitution and kerbcrawling because there have been complaints.
"Take the Financial Services District: we now have the potential for females leaving, say, a call centre late at night and being approached by kerbcrawlers. Or their partners picking them up after work being approached by prostitutes."
Kerbcrawling was criminalised in 2007 and carries a fine of up to £1000.
Men caught in brothels are treated as witnesses rather than criminals, but there is increasing support for calls to make buying sex a criminal offence in Scotland.
CALTON HAS HIGHEST NUMBER OF OFFENDERS OFFERING SEX FOR SALE
THE Calton Barras area, home to part of Glasgow Green with its prostitution scene, was the busiest police beat area where people were caught offering sex for sale. A total of 62 cases were identified there last year, ahead of Broomielaw West, the beat containing most of the traditional Anderston Drag, with 55.
Collegelands was the third biggest area for prostitution, with 30 cases.
Broomielaw West was the busiest for kerbcrawling, with 47 recorded offences, up from four last year. It was followed by Calton Barras, with 14 such crimes.
Figures suggest street vice is creeping into the centre of Glasgow. Two people were caught kerbcrawling in the heart of the city, in the Central Station beat. Fourteen reports of prostitution were also recorded.
Brothels were uncovered in the Glasgow Harbour area, North Kelvinside, Alexandra Park/ Haghill and Collegelands, as well as the city centre and Govanhill.