THE number of arrests for street prostitution has nearly doubled in the last three years.
A total of 30 women and three men were charged with prostitution-related offences since January, with the youngest being 19.
Last year, 67 people were charged with either soliciting, loitering or importuning while selling sex on the streets in the force area, compared with 37 in 2008.
Prostitute support group Scotpep said the rise in arrests may have been sparked by police acting on complaints from residents rather than a rise in the number of sex workers.
Police chiefs said they were “vigorously” enforcing laws enacted in 2008 which made kerb-crawling a criminal offence and that may account for an increase in charges.
During 2010, a total of 42 men were charged under kerb-crawling laws in Edinburgh, compared with just 23 in 2008.
Calton Hill has been cited as one location where male prostitutes have operated, with residents complaining in recent years about rent boys using the area to pick up clients.
Ruth Morgan-Thomas, who sits on the board of Scotpep, said: “Calton Hill has been a cruising area for male sex workers in the past, but I don’t think there’s any particular scene in one area now.
“With female sex workers, the number of arrests can depend on the police reacting to complaints from residents. If the number of complaints goes up then arrests will be higher.
“Scotpep is no longer funded to carry out support work on the streets, but the number of women involved seems to be staying at a fairly constant level.”
Estimates made by Scotpep last year put the number of women working on the streets at between 80 and 100.
Rob Kirkwood, from the Leith Residents’ Association, said: “Prostitution in the Leith Links area is now practically non-existent. There was a woman working here on Tuesday night, but she was the first person I had seen in months.
“The rise in arrests doesn’t indicate a return to problems in Leith Links. I think it shows that the police are taking a pro-active approach to policing an issue which can devastate communities.”
The figures, released by Lothian and Borders Police, showed that 127 arrests for either soliciting, loitering or importuning were made in 2006.
The number fell to 50 the following year then 37 in 2008 before starting to climb again over the past three years.
Loitering charges are usually made when police officers observe an individual and believe they have reason to suspect they are selling sexual services. Soliciting and importuning usually relate to the negotiation process with a client being witnessed.
Police chiefs said they would continue to enforce the laws over street prostitution in the force area.
A police spokesman said: “We will continue to enforce this legislation through targeted patrolling, with the aim of enhancing the safety and security of everyone in the local community. At the same time, we will continue to work with partners to assist people in finding routes out of prostitution.”