A CRACKDOWN on prostitution has been relaunched to rid Bolton’s streets of sex workers and kerb crawlers.

Police started Operation Zero seven years ago, a campaign that is credited with significantly reducing the number of prostitutes on Bolton’s streets.

The operation was launched when the problem reached a peak in the wake of the murder of Carly Bateman, a prostitute, who was aged just 17 when she was strangled, stripped naked and hidden beneath undergrowth in a back alley off Crawford Avenue, The Haulgh, on November 11, 2001.

Geoffrey Porter was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for her murder.

Now police have relaunched Operation Zero - starting last year - to tackle the ongoing problem.

Sgt Ray Jackson, from Bolton Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “The aims are still to protect communities by reducing the nuisance and annoyance caused as a result of on street prostitution and kerb crawling activity, to tackle demand by deterring and disrupting persons seeking sexual services and to target action against sex workers who persistently solicit and refuse to engage with support services.”

He said the problem has moved away from the town centre to industrial areas outside the town centre in Great Lever.

Police have been regularly patrolling the hotspots to deter sex workers and kerb crawlers.

Sex workers are issued with street warnings before being arrested — the warnings last three months.

Nineteen people have been given warnings in the past six months. Those looking for sexual services are arrested on their first offence.

A suspected kerb crawler was arrested earlier this month for looking for sex.

He received a caution and will attend a course held by Urban Outreach, which raises awareness of the impact the crime has on the wider community.

Two other men have also recently been arrested on suspicion of kerb crawling. They are likely to be cautioned.

Sgt Jackson said many people come from out of the area to commit crimes.

He said: “Not surprisingly, many of these people come from outside Bolton and police are mindful of making sure that Bolton is not seen as the place to go to for prostitution. The crackdown will continue.

“Anyone going to the red light area for prostitution can expect a robust response from the police and be assured that they will be prosecuted where the evidence justifies it.

“They will get stopped and asked to account for their presence in the red light area. Anyone charged with kerb crawling/seeking the services of a prostitute can expect that their details will appear in the local media when the case is heard at court with all the potential embarrassment to themselves and their family that this would entail.”