POLICE have hailed the success of an operation to drive prostitutes off the streets of Southend.

Southend police say they are now rarely called out to prostitutes loitering around the Kursaal ward, thanks to policing powers.

Rules introduced in 2009, under Operation Trestle, have seen police working to a three strike rule.

Women seen loitering are given cautions on two occasions, on the third they are arrested.

Since 2012 no arrests have been made, but street cautions and antisocial behaviour orders have been issued.

The last caution was issued at the end of April.

The Asbos stop prostitutes from going to certain streets at certain times.

Chief Insp Simon Anslow, district commander for Southend, said in 2012 there was an average of ten incidents a month.

In the past three months, Southend police have only had eight calls.

He said: “There has been a significant drop.

“In August 2012 we ran an operation targeting kerb crawlers and 24 men were cautioned. It certainly looks like that has had a positive impact on street prostitution.

“Certainly, we have more to do, but we now have a much smaller problem. It remains an issue we are keen to keep on the priority list for the Kursaal ward.”

Mr Anslow said the reduction could mean prostitutes may be working from brothels instead of street corners and a centralised team of officers work with other agencies and intelligence to investigate them.

He added: “Southend is certainly not rife with brothels.”

Ron Woodley, chairman of Burges Estate Residents’ Association and an Independent councillor for Thorpe, said: “I haven’t had a complaint about prostitutes or kerb crawlers for six months.

“The major area this was happening is Ambleside Drive and that has dropped considerably.

“We know they were doing business in and around Thorpe Bay, but we took action to minimise it by fencing off Southchurch Park’s east car park.

“We sectioned off the car park and turned it into a park, so there were no bushes to hide in and no unsavoury things were happening.

“At one stage children were finding used condoms.

Now we have lighting from Kensington Road to Shaftesbury Avenue and over the footbridge.”

A RESIDENT agrees Southend’s prostitution problem has eased, despite having to rush to help his teenage daughter who was followed by a kerb crawler.

The man, who lives in Victoria Road, but asked to be anonymous, said there is still a problem, but it has “undeniably improved”.

He said: “Just last month my 17-year-old daughter was walking along Ambleside Drive and called me to say she was being followed by a kerb crawler. He had driven around three or four times. She had the sense to take down his registration number and I rushed to get her. It was frightening. I got there in two minutes and luckily he had gone.

“The police must not relax their grip. A lot of the problem is due to class A drugs and that hasn’t gone away so clearly they still need the money.”