GANGS of trouble-making yobs are now banned from Southend’s High Street in the evening and face being fined or arrested if they don’t adhere to a new dispersal order.

Officers are regularly called to the town centre to deal with up to 15-strong gangs of teenagers taking drugs, carrying weapons and terrorising traders and shoppers.

From today, however, officers have put in place dispersal orders throughout the week, granting them special powers to deal with antisocial behaviour.

It comes after Sgt Ian Hughes, from the community policing team, found knuckledusters, a lock knife and drugs paraphernalia discarded in a bush. He said: “On the High Street there has been groups of youths causing issues. They are gathering in large groups near McDonald’s, they have been carrying out assaults, possessing controlled substances, possessing controlled weapons, and being nasty to shopkeepers and shoppers.

“On Thursday, we had a report of groups of youths behaving antisocially and when I went to the scene, I found all the items discarded in a bush.

“There were knuckledusters, a small pocket knife, a couple of grinders and three or four packets of cigarettes.

“We want to send out the message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated by either the police, the youth offending service or the street rangers, who will all be carrying out patrols.

“We can make them immediately leave the location and send them home.

“If they return within 24 hours, then they can be arrested.”

Mr Hughes said the problem involved about 30 different youths, all aged between 12 and 15.

If a group is gathered in the dispersal zone and were involved in suspected drug dealing and antisocial behaviour, officers can tell them to split up or leave the area for up to 24 hours.

Breaching the directions given by police is an offence and will lead to arrest, with a conviction punishable by to six months in prison or a fine of up to £5,000.

A dispersal order was last put in place in York Road, Southend, in May this year after families living on the street complained about anti-social geared around drug activity

Anyone with information about people breaching the dispersal order can call Essex Police on 101.

Echo: Haul - weapons and cigarettes found in bush

Haul - weapons and cigarettes found in bush