POLICE are using tough new laws to crack down on prostitutes blighting the streets of Southend.

Officers have begun issuing community protection notices to sex workers touting their services across the Kursaal ward.

It is the first time the new powers- which were introduced in 2014- have been used against prostitutes.

Breaching a notice is a criminal offence in itself, meaning police do not have to prove any other misconduct at court.

Sgt Ian Hughes, who heads up the Southend community policing team, which is behind Operation Trestle, told how the tough approach is designed to identify sex workers who are forced into prostitution.

He said: “We have been targeting the area of Ambleside Drive, York Road and Riviera Drive for a number of years.

“It’s been an ongoing problem. It’s a popular location for that sort of community and people who wish to partake in such activities.”

Under the new crack down, prostitutes are first issued with a warning to stay away from a specific area before being given a written notice if they are spotted again.

Police are usually reluctant to bring charges for soliciting against sex workers, but breaching the notice could see them end up in court.

On the first two nights of the police patrols, seven warnings were handed out, as well as three notices.

Curb crawlers have also been targeted.

Sgt Hughes added: “What’s driving it is our awareness of modern slavery and hidden harms. It’s looking at what can be done before criminalising people.

“If they are doing it off their own their own bat that’s one thing. But often there is an organisation or pimp involved.”

Southchurch councillor Ann Holland said she backed the operation.

She said: “I would rather the prostitutes accept the warnings so they don’t have to go to court, but if they don’t abide by it I will support the police.”