It has been well established at a global level that sex workers are often victims of direct violence in the course of their work, targeted by their ‘perceived vulnerability’ as a marginalised group. In one police force in England (Merseyside) since 2006 they have addressed this victimisation through adopting a ‘hate crime’ approach to policing crimes against sex workers. The aims of this paper are first, to review the implementation of the hate crime model applied to crimes against sex workers; second, to explore how police forces are adopting the policy across the UK, and the operational barriers to doing so; and third to explore the legal, theoretical and critical issues raised by treating crimes against sex workers as a type of hate crime through policing models. The conclusion weighs up some of the challenges to expanding the current law to include sex workers as a target group for increased protection, assessing that a fully funded policing approach may well be sufficient alongside law reform around decriminalisation of sex work. This article will draw on data from police forces in England. We acknowledge that much more work is needed to establish the sex work community's views on the value, if any, of the hate crime approach.