TWO suspects sparked a police chase after they ran off from officers when they stopped and searched a car over suspected drugs offences.

Police arrested three people on Saturday, at just after 5pm, on suspicion of drug offences, after their car triggered a police automatic number place recognition camera in Southchurch Road, Southend.

Residents reported seeing five police cars and a van surrounding the vehicle to carry out the search. Police arrested a 30-yearold local man on suspicion of being in possession of illegal drugs.

During the stop check two other men ran off from police down Lancaster Gardens towards Hastings Road.

Police cars and the van were seen rushing towards Hillcrest Road where they arrested two more men a short time later.

A 39-year-old from Southend and a 36-year-old from the Southend area were taken to Southend police station for questioning on suspicion of drug offences.

A witness said: “I was stuck in traffic and several police cars sped past me. There were about five cars and a van. I saw there was a man on the ground being restrained by police.

“Then two cars and the van raced off towards York Road and as I went past I saw theywere in a side street with other people.

“They were looking under cars and through gardens in Lancaster Gardens as they walked through the underpass.

The police were proactive to get them.”

All three men have been released on police bail until October 10, pending further inquiries.

The arrests follow a crackdown on drug dealing, which saw 47 people arrested last month as part of Operation Erasure – a bid to wipe out drug dealers peddling in Southend. Neighbourhood police vowed to work proactively to quickly identify and arrest new dealers rising up to take their place.

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: “Three men were arrested in Southend in connection with suspected drug offences. Police carried out a stop check on a car in Southchurch Road, after it triggered a ANPR camera shortly after 5pm on Saturday, August 9 they arrested a 30-year-old local man on suspicion of being in possession of illegal drugs.

“Two men ran off from police during the stop check, but were arrested a short distance away in Hillcrest Road a short time later.

They were also arrested on suspicion of committing drug offences.”