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Pop-up brothels 'using privately rented apartments' say police

No fewer than 14 ‘pop up brothels’ have been discovered in one seaside town in six months, with all of them believed to be using privately-rented accommodation.

Police in Cornwall say the problem is particularly acute in Newquay, where a mix of holiday let and long-term privately let accommodation have been used by prostitutes.

"I don't think this issue is isolated to Newquay alone, it is almost certainly force-wide and country-wide” says a spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police.

"They book the accommodation online and it is usually holiday lets or apartments where the owner is elsewhere and doesn't know what is going on, although sometimes they do use hotels. Because it is so rapid it is hard to keep up with. The evidence that we have at the moment indicates that the majority in Newquay are coming from eastern Europe" he says.

"If you live near holidays lets or flats, be mindful of men coming to the premises at all hours, sex workers who may come and go quite quickly, and if you have any concerns please contact the police on 101" he adds.

The problem is not new. 

Back in 2009 the National Landlords Association issued guidance after similar claims were made by the Metropolitan Police, which said most brothels in the capital operated from privately rented property, often - presumably - without the knowledge of the owners.

“Brothels can be found across the entire private-rented sector, ranging from bedsits in houses in multiple occupation to exclusive prime location apartments” said the NLA at the time. 

“The police say tell-tale signs of a brothel include sparse furniture inside the premises, little equipment in the kitchens, or a lack of personal effects in the bedrooms and bathrooms. This may be coupled with numerous mobile phones lying around” the advice continued.

In recent years the rise of online bookings and platforms such as Airbnb may have worsened the problem for buy to let investors and landlords.

Last year it was reported that Airbnb hosts in Sweden were being warned about the use of their properties as brothels. The Daily Mail last year claimed Stockholm police said pimps were creating fake profiles on Airbnb and other short-term accommodation websites to pose as legitimate customers and renting privately-owned homes for two or three weeks at a time.

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