CRIMINALS are selling stolen fireworks to finance prostitution and drugs, police have warned.

Car boot sales and pubs are being targeted by the black-market salesmen and the public has been warned not to buy fireworks from people without a licence.

Reports have already emerged in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, that fireworks are being offered for sale at cut price rates.

Police community safety officer Geoff Crocker fears that if illegal sales take off it will severely damage attempts by the authorities to create a safer Bonfire Night.

PC Crocker said it was illegal to sell fireworks without a licence and anyone buying them should ask to see a licence. Shops selling fireworks legally often displayed the licence, he said.

"But if you ask someone who is selling them illegally to see their licence they are most likely to run a mile," he said.

Police issued the warnings after attempts were made to break into secure firework storage areas in the Harrogate district.

Security has been stepped up and an attempt to break into a compound in the Ripon area has already been foiled.

Police believe organised criminals from Teesside and West Yorkshire are stealing the fireworks to buy drugs and to set up prostitution rackets.

Police in Harrogate have issued a telephone number where the public can report fireworks being sold illegally. It is 0845 6060247.

North Yorkshire Trading Standards Department is conducting test purchases to ensure fireworks are not being sold without licences.