SOUTHEND Crime Safety Partnership has warned London gangs they will targeted in a blitz on town centre crime.

Southend has been dogged by a spate of violent crime in recent weeks leaving the town centre a virtual no-go area at night.

Three young men have been left with stab wounds following serious incidents since February.

It is the latest in a long list of incidents in recent years which are widely believed to linked with London drug gangs.

Simon Ford, community safety manager at Southend Council and a member of the partnership, said: “It is my role to co-ordinate the partnership’s response to crime in Southend and to focus the partnership on key issues in the borough.

“Some of it is out of our control and that is very frustrating.

“We do a lot to safeguard residents and keep people safe but if the issue is exported from London part of our response has to be to speak to our counterparts in London because they have got responsibility also.”

Mr Ford added: “We are speaking to the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, London City Hall and our counterparts in Newham, north London and Lewisham.

“We are working with them and I have a strong belief we can do a lot more with cross border work so we are going to be focussing on this. Gangs are a priority for us”

Southend town centre is becoming increasingly deserted at night as residents avoid it because of antisocial behaviour and drunkenness along with the violent incidents

Mr Ford said: “We can’t let that happen. Because of what has happened recently we have to deal with this quickly.”

The partnership is planning a town centre operation bolstered by extra police which have been promised and involving a number of agencies.

Mr Ford said: “We will focus on town centre issues like antisocial behaviour, crime levels in the town, homelessness and street drinking.

“We will be forming a town centre action group. This will be a high visibility patrol.

“We want to publicise this so London gangs to see this to deter them. We are also working with the children and adult safeguarding team and the health and wellbeing board.

“We’ll be promoting issues around violence. It’s not just the community safety partnership many of the issues, particularly with mental health, criss cross.

“I keep saying the police can’t arrest their way of this. Sometimes it is hard to judge whether someone is the victim or the offender because they may have been exploited.

Mr Ford added: “We will have extra police post summer. We’ve put a lot into CCTV in support of what the police do in the town like trying to identify youths involved in incidents.

“I’m hopeful that we might have turned a corner and with more resources can focus on the town centre.”

The Southend Community Safety Partnership meets quarterly and consists of high-ranking representatives of Southend Council, Essex fire service, South Essex Homes, the probation service and Southend public health department.

Martin Terry, Independent councillor for Thorpe stood for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner post.

He said: “Anything that can be done now will be helpful. There is a debate going on about he horrific events there. The issue there as here is the lack of police.

“I welcome the partnership’s strategy but there was a big drug bust in Elmer Square on Friday where five machetes were found so I don’t think its entirely reliable to just target London gangs.

“I spent a great deal of my own personal resources trying to get elected as police and crime commissioner because I really care and sadly everything I predicted during that campaign is coming true.”

Mr Terry added: “People don’t think the town is safe after dar k. Those in power don’t believe this.

“I beleive if they were to do a study and ask people how safe they felt in the town centre at night, they would be staggered by the findings.”