POLICE today refused to apologise after mistakenly accusing a female company director of kerb crawling in Bradford's red light district as she attended a drama group.
Amateur actress Anne-Marie Carroll, 45, hit out at "lazy" policing after her boss was contacted by vice squad officers about her behaviour.
Mrs Carroll had parked her company Volvo outside a rehearsal room every week for 26 years, and knew nothing about the police surveillance until she received a letter at work last month.
The police letter, headed "Dear Sir", was from officers investigating people cruising the red-light district of Bradford, looking for prostitutes. It said the matter would "remain on police records" unless she appealed.
Mrs Carroll, a sales director at her family's cleaning company in Halifax, has been a member of the Bradford Catholic Players for 26 years and attends the same rehearsal room up to four days a week.
The venue is in the red-light area that 'Crossbow Cannibal' Stephen Griffiths scoured for his victims.
She said: "I drove up to the venue the same way I have for 26 years and parked up outside it, I wasn't slowing down regularly or acting suspiciously.
"We were there for about three hours and I didn't think anything of it at the time. It wasn't until December 19 that I got a letter through the post telling me I may have been committing a kerb crawling offence.
"I was flabbergasted. If the police had been doing their job properly they would have seen that I was a woman on my own and after I had parked I went straight into the rehearsal room.
"It is lazy policing. If they had even bothered to ask me what I was doing they would have realised it made sense. What makes it even more ridiculous is that a year ago another person from the company got a warning for the same thing.
"He was stopped and taken into a van to explain what he was doing. He told the police and they said as they had now been made aware of the rehearsal room they wouldn't stop anyone else for parking in the same area."
Mrs Carroll's twin brother, Nicholas, the company's managing director, opened the letter, which said the details of the circumstances in which her black Volvo estate was seen would be kept on record unless she objected, and that she should speak to officers so they could confirm she had not committed an offence.
He said: "Mailing out these lame letters peppered with these references to kerb crawling, a good number of people will be perfectly normal people going about their lawful business. The whole idea is abhorrent to me. It is a really cack-handed way of dealing with the problem. We don't need a reason to drive on the road."
Mother-of-two Mrs Carroll, who lives in Bingley with husband husband Matthew, an account director, said the matter could have put a huge stain on her character had she been a man.
She said: "My concern is with innocent people who, like me, drive company cars, a letter will go to their employers. Being a woman, it removes 90 percent of the doubt that I was actually kerb crawling but if I were a man I could protest my innocence until I was blue in the face and people wouldn't believe me.
"To send it to someone's workplace, not knowing who might see it, is irresponsible. It casts aspersions immediately and once that aspersion has been cast there would always be that cast of doubt as to what they were doing."
Mrs Carroll has now launched an appeal after being told that she would have to formally object to have the issue removed from records.
She said: "Unless I am prosecuted I do not think they have any right at all to hold my details on file. I am a law-abiding citizen and I think it is an absolute outrage.
"I know what they are battling against trying to keep these ladies safe, but law-abiding citizens need to be looked after as well."
Supt Angela Williams, of Bradford South Police, said: "We make no apology for the robust way in that we tackle the issue of kerb crawling in Bradford.
"This particular tactic to target the men who solicit women has been used for a number of years in the city and with notable success.
"The letters are sent out following detailed observations of a vehicle's movements and the registered owner is contacted whether it is an individual or a business.
"In circumstances where the drivers are found to have legitimate reason for their activity, they are immediately removed from our records."