EXTRA police are patrolling the streets of Southend on Saturday nights this summer in an effort to reduce nighttime crime.

The Southend Business Improvement District scheme is paying for extra officers to patrol close to town centre bars, clubs, and restaurants every Saturday night this month on a trial basis.

If it is successful, businesses funding the scheme say it could continue on a regular basis.

The Business Improvement District committee is putting up £5,500 to fund extra officers during August Its chairman, Dawn Jeakings, said: “Southend is a great place for a brilliant night out, but, occasionally we need a police presence.

“I hope this will boost our really important night-time economy.

“The perception of safety is really important in the town and if we make sure Southend is a safe place to go out in, more people will be attracted.

“The moneywill help officers to provide a reassuring presence for visitors, residents, employees and business owners.”

Ms Jeakings said officers would concentrate on the main town centre hotspots, such as Lucy Road, the seafront, Warrior Square, and Alexandra Street.

The Business Improvement District imposes a levy on the 371 town centre businesses signed up to it, with the money being used to fund measures to boost trade.

Southend’s police commander, Chief Insp Simon Anslow, said: “I know from my frontline officers that evening and night-time businesses appreciate visible policing in the town.

“They tell us what a positive and supportive effect uniformed officers have, so I’m delighted we have been able to increase our presence and further contribute to the success of a key part of Southend’s business community.”

The new officers will work alongside the Business Improvement District’s own street rangers, uniformed staff who patrol the town centre and report problems to the police.

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SOUTHEND town centre crime is increasing overall, according to police figures.

From April until the end of July, 124 offences were recorded in central Southend – a 6.6 per cent increase on the same period in 2013. Burglaries and robberies have increased, though shoplifting has reduced.

The summer is a notoriously busy time for the police and the 43 extra officers will be welcome.

Putting more boots on the ground has already led to a recent successful drugs bust, which also led to the discovery of more crimes.

Police commander Chief Insp Simon Anslow said: “We have prioritised the money to Saturday nights, because that seems to have been the bigger problem in relation to violence.

“It’s proved very beneficial. That money came in at the time when we were having to deploy officers to Colchester as part of the murder inquiries. Had it not been for that support we would have found ourselves with depleted resources to carry out nighttime patrols.”