A GANG of school kid shoplifters are being sought as part of a crackdown after there were almost 200 crimes in Southend in two months.

Southend Business Improvement District (BID) street rangers and Southend’s community policing team have launched a new initiative against thieves after 192 reports of shoplifting in the last eight weeks.

According to BID’s minutes of their latest retail crime meeting, there has been a noticeable “spike in school children and college students shoplifting”.

Temporary Insp Ian Hughes, from the community policing team, will inform his team of certain uniforms to be on the look out for.

BID manager Alison Dewey said: “The BID has four street rangers patrolling the streets seven days a week, and out of the shoplifting incidents they assisted retailers with in February they managed to retrieve 94 per cent of what was going out the door.”

District Commander Det Chief Insp Neil Pudney said: “If we see a spike in shoplifting, we do increase patrols.We have a number of challenging issues and that is just one area that we are dealing with.”

Police have also put in place a dispersal order to ban groups of youths from the town centre following an increase in crime and disorder linked to gangs.

The order will last until midday on Wednesday after police received a report of a disturbance in Elmer Square, Southend, at about 6.30pm on Sunday. Police arrested a 17-year-old boy from London on suspicion of possession of drugs and released him under investigation.

The order allows officers to force groups causing antisocial behaviour to leave. Anyone refusing to leave the area once directed can be arrested and, if convicted could face three months in prison or fined up to £25,000.

Mr Pudney added: “We got the dispersal order in place under one isolated incident of violent disorder.

“Because of the school holidays it seems there were groups of youths causing antisocial behaviour so the dispersal order was extended.

“I’d like to reassure people there has been a lot of police action and the town is a safe place for people to visit.We will continue to apply for dispersal orders in this area until we are confident that we have addressed concerns about antisocial behaviour.”