TODAY marks the ninth anniversary since the murder which changed the face of policing in Bolton.

Carly Bateman was 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.

She was a prostitute, forced to sell her body to feed a crippling addiction to heroin.

The murder took place on the edge of a red light district, which sprawled from its heart in Shiffnall Street, out to The Haulgh and parts of Great Lever.

It was the wake-up call which led to a crackdown on the vice trade, which reached its peak in 2007 with the introduction of Operation Zero.

Up until then Bolton remained blighted by onstreet prostitution, with more than 140 women and children operating day and night in red light and residential areas.

Inspector Phil Spurgeon, who leads policing in Bolton town centre, said: “Prostitution wrecked families; womens’ vulnerabilities were underlined with the murders of Carly Bateman, and Danielle Moorcroft, who was 21 and pregnant when she was killed in 2002.”

Communities suffered harassment, uncapped syringes and anti-social behaviour.

Confidence bottomed in 2006, with a 2,000 plus signature petition demanding action.

O p e r a t i o n Z e r o w a s launched with the stated aim of ridding Bolton of on-street prostitution. Since 2008, police have carried out 131 operations, carrying out 528 arrests to date, including 231 prostitutes, 192 kerbcrawlers and 105 ‘others’.

A behavioural change programme for kerb-crawlers was developed in 2007 — one of the country’s first—which forces men to confront the impact of their behaviour.

So far there have been 15 sessions involving 172 kerbcrawlers with just four men re-offending in Bolton.

Insp Spurgeon said onstreet prostitution has now plummeted to about 20 women, with 18 refusing to engage with support and subject to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. He added that on-street prostitution has been eliminated from residential areas, with just one or two women occasionally working late at night in industrial ‘red light’ areas.

There have been no reports of serious attacks on prostitutes since the initiative began.

Insp Spurgeon said: “The approach’s success is clear —it is no exaggeration to say that lives have been saved.”

Carly’s mother, Vanessa Stirling, who now lives in Doncaster, said: “I am glad things have improved since Carly died because it’s so sad to see all these young girls on street corners in so much danger.

“If lessons have been learnt then that can only be a good thing.”

Geoffrey Porter was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for the murder of Carly.