PROSTITUTES have turned a quiet residential area into East Lancashire’s biggest red light district with street girls coming from Manchester to work.

Police and council officials have now launched a £10,000 crackdown in Blackburn, with residents saying they have been ‘sickened’ by the problems.

Officers said there was a regular group of 15 or 16 girls working in the Bank Top area of town on residential streets including Dixon Street, Garden Street and the cul-de-sac Pleasington Close.

Residents said women who live in the area are being regularly approached by kerb crawlers asking if they ‘want some business’.

There have even been complaints of prostitutes and clients having sex in the street.

Now 70 residents have signed a petition demanding action.

Police Sergeant Kevin Jones, announcing extra patrols and use of vehicle number plate reading technology to drive out the kerb crawlers, said: “It is becoming known that there is a thriving scene in Blackburn and that is attracting more and more girls and clients.

“It is happening every day of the week, particularly between 9pm and 2am, and a considerable problem for people living there.

“In Dixon Street and the surrounding area we are getting reports of street workers engaging in sexual acts in public with clients.

“There are many girls not native to Blackburn who are working the area, including some from Manchester.”

A crackdown on the problem in 2005 was thought to have driven the town’s vice girls to Preston.

In the past the issue has been confined to main roads around King Street and Montague Street.

But officers said they believe the prostitutes had slowly begun to creep back to Blackburn on quieter streets.

A new strategy to tackle the problem has been launched by the local community safety partnership.

Police said that this was already starting to pay dividends.

But one resident, who lives in Pleasington Close, said: “We are getting at least three or four prostitutes a night blatantly selling themselves on the street, and they don't care how they are doing it.

“This is a residential area and people have children and families coming to visit. You don't need the hassle of having that at the end of your street.

“If people want to sell their house then it causes another problem if you have prostitutes gathering on the streets.”

Another added: “People round here are getting hassle. Customers are going up to the women and mistaking them for prostitutes while all the blokes get grief from them and are propositioned.

“At the end of the day prostitution may be the oldest trade in the book, but it is still illegal, and something should be done about it.”

Sgt Jones said £10,000 was to be spent tackling the problems.

He said £6,000 had been invested in ANPR technology for officers to identify kerb crawlers.

Extra officers will also be located in the neighbourhood.

He said: “Men picking up prostitutes must be aware that they are committing a crime. And if they come to Bank Top to do this they must be aware that could receive a visit at home by uniformed officers.”

Sgt Jones said officers would now work with other support agencies to bring an end to residents’ hell.

He said: “It is obvious that all of the girls who work on the street have many other problems, often with drugs or alcohol.

“Us picking them up and taking them to magistrates’ court where they will be fined is not a solution because they will then go back to the street to pay the fine.

“We will be referring the women to the new Revolution Centre in Penny Street where some of their problems can be addressed.”