East London police recently started removing prostitutes from the area following nine attacks in the past two months.
But prostitutes spoken to on Thursday said they were not to blame and it was criminal gangs roaming the area.
They said the gangs – believed to be from informal settlements in Sunnyridge and Orange Grove – were ruining their business by targeting their clients.
A prostitute who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “We are victims of these police officers and when they don’t have anything to do in town they come down here to remove us.
“The fault is with the gangs who operate here‚ not us – why don’t they catch these thugs instead of us‚” asked the 34-year-old.
Another said the job was their only source of income.
“We can’t go and sell in the CBD – we are here doing this in privacy to protect our clients. We are not going anywhere‚ but these cops arrest and detain us for nothing‚” she said.
East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said police had no choice but to remove them from the area as crime was escalating.
She said if prostitutes were found to be working with the criminals they would be charged.
“We can’t have a situation where an area is a no-go zone because of thugs.”
S*x Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce Eastern Cape representative Babalwa Mboxela said she could only comment once she met with the prostitutes.