A PROSTITUTE has become the first street sex worker in Blackburn to be given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order to stop her soliciting.

Natasha Coker, 23, of Hollin Bridge Street, Blackburn, has been banned from the Bank Top area for two years as part of a new scheme to tackle prostitution in the town.

Town centre Sergeant Dave Clarke said Coker’s refusal to engage with the initiative had left police with no other option than to apply for a CrASBO, a type of ASBO given on conviction of a criminal offence.

In October, Inspector Muz Patala launched a crackdown on the sex industry, offering kerb-crawlers and prostitutes courses instead of criminal charges on the first arrest.

Coker was first arrested for soliciting for sex on October 28, having already had two warnings and a caution.

She was one of the first prostitutes to be offered a conditional caution involving an educational element, but failed to turn up to the three-hour course.

Coker was then arrested again in the Harrison Street area on November 25 and charged.

She has now appeared at court and was banned from the Bank Top area every day for the next two years.

The order bans her from streets including Montague Street, Freckleton Street, Canterbury Street, Harrison Street, the A674 Bank Top, Garden Street, Wensley Road and Oakenhurst Road.

Sgt Clarke said: “We’ve tried to work with Natasha Coker, but she’s failed to attend meetings through the conditional caution process.

“Unfortunately we were left with no alternative than prosecution.

“She’s now moved from a fine to the possibility of five years in prison if she’s caught soliciting in that area again.”

Sgt Clarke said that if she tried to solicit for sex in another area the police would look to extend the order, which would be “a much quicker process” now she had already appeared in court.

“It’s something we’ll continue to monitor,” he said. “She was angry about it, but she’s not taken the opportunity of help.

“Natasha Coker is the most persistent offender out of all the working girls.

“This is a good result for the residents who live there who have complained.

“It sends a message to the other girls that this is what we will do.”

According to police, the new initiative is now having a real impact on the streets which have been popular prostitution hotspots.

Local residents and regular users of the roads around Bank Top have reported a decrease in activity.

Sgt Clarke said: “There’s certainly been a big improvement, although the problem is not solved.

“Once the men are caught the shame and embarrassment factor kicks in and they simply don’t return.

“With the girls, it can be a way of life, funding mainly addictions, and it’s more difficult to break the cycle.

“Every time we make an arrest or come across prostitutes, we put in a referral for the girl.

“As in this case, sometimes that can end up with an ASBO. We have another girl going through the same process who is listed for trial in February - we’ll be looking for similar restrictive conditions.”

The aim of the initiative is to move from short-term enforcement to a long-term solution.

The education course costs £75 for men, free for women, and deals with the dangers of prostitution, the law, the impact of their behaviour on the community, health risks, and what happens if they re-offend.

National guidance states that before a street sex worker is arrested for soliciting for sex, police give two prior warnings to show persistent offending.