A police force has denied a four-year crackdown on kerb-crawlers has made sex workers more vulnerable to attack by forcing them to move on to other areas.
Of the 52 men arrested for kerb-crawling in east Bournemouth in 2006, 18 were charged compared with the 17 arrests and a single charge last year.
English Collective of Prostitutes said the women were being “forced to work in isolated and more dangerous areas”.
But Dorset Police said its operation “supported and engaged” with the women.
Inspector Clodie Sutcliffe, based at Boscombe police station, told BBC News: “I don’t agree that we have displaced them. I think the partnership that we have in place supports those women and reduces the likelihood of harm for them.
“The officers in the area know the women very well and focus very much on supporting them and moving them away from their chaotic lifestyle.”
A spokeswoman from the English Collective of Prostitutes said: “Rising poverty, debt and homelessness is forcing more women into prostitution to support themselves and their families.
“Crackdowns force women into isolated and more dangerous areas and make them vulnerable to attack.
“Why are Dorset Police pursuing a policy which clearly puts women’s lives at risk?”
The force’s initiative, targeting the Boscombe area, involves overt and covert policing and working with Dorset Working Women’s Project (DWWP), a spokesman said.
As part of the crackdown more than half of all the kerb-crawlers who were arrested over the four-year-period – 114 in total – were referred to a rehabilitation scheme called the Change Course.
The 73 men paid £200 – about the price of a court fine – to attend the one-day programme, established by Hampshire Constabulary in May 2000, to educate men about the consequences of kerb-crawling.
Hampshire police said 492 men from across both counties had completed the course since its inception.
Pauline Smyth, project co-ordinator of the DWWP, funded by Bournemouth and Poole Community Health Services, said the majority of the sex workers were in their mid-30s and drug users.
“The women don’t really want to be out there working – they are working because they have a drug problem.”