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Complaints about girls aged under 18 working as prostitutes are being investigated by Nelson detectives, but they say they cannot tackle the problem unless the public gives them information. A crackdown on child prostitution saw 25 people arrested in Auckland on Thursday and 16 girls, some as young as 13, being removed from the streets and returned to the care of their parents or Child Youth and Family Services. Detective Constable Aaron Kennaway, of Nelson CIB, said on Friday that police had received information within the past year about girls under 18 working as prostitutes.
He refused to comment on who the complaints came from, how many girls were involved, where in the region they were working or how young they were. Prostitution was decriminalised in but it is still illegal to have sex with a prostitute aged under Mr Kennaway said one girl had felt "stigmatised" by the community as a result of working as a prostitute.
Although he refused to talk about specific complaints because they were under investigation, Mr Kennaway said the reasons behind girls working as prostitutes were the same in Nelson as everywhere else. The motivations to do it are universal. He said that because Nelson was a small place offering little anonymity, young girls did not stay in prostitution for long.
However, Mr Kennaway said police were not "pro-active" in looking for underage prostitutes because they had been "out of the loop" with the industry since prostitution was legalised.
Police used to work closely with prostitutes, but they now had to rely on complaints and information from the public - which were rarely received in Nelson.