THE district commander for Southend has defended Essex Police's reaction to violent town in the town.

Responding to concerns Martin Terry aired in the Echo, where he said there were not enough police and that the police commissioner to resign, Chief Inspector Neil Pudney reassured residents that there is no "gang warfare" in Southend.

Chief Insp Neil Pudney, District Commander for Southend, said: “I understand the concerns around violent crime. This is a national issue and not specific to any one district. However I would like to respond to the Echo and concerns raised by Councillor Terry as I believe it is important to set some context about violent crime in Southend and outline the steps we have taken alongside our partners to deliver the best possible service to the public.

“In terms of officer numbers, over the next two to three months Southend will be welcoming 17 new officers who will join our Local Policing Teams.

“And in 2019 the borough will benefit from another extra 12 new officers as a direct result of the precept increase.

“All of these officers will hit the ground running and will enable us to continue all of our good work to fight and prevent crime, lock up criminals and keep our community here safe.

“Southend has seen a rise in violent crime which is in line with national trends. The number of people caught with weapons has risen but part of this will be attributed to our targeted patrols of hotspots and our effective use of stop and search.

“Violent crimes where weapons are carried or used tend to involve individuals who are known to each other and occur as part of an internal dispute. We are not seeing violent crime carried out indiscriminately and I certainly don't recognise the suggestion that violent crime is out of control.

"We have set up Op Reflex which is a dedicated proactive town centre patrol team that operate from our community safety hub. We will also expanding the existing Community Safety Team with funding provided by Southend Council. This team will consist of one operations manager and six officers in uniform who will work alongside police colleagues. Although not police officers, they will have powers such as the ability to issue fixed penalty notices and will be able to deal with issues such as anti-social behaviour. There is real investment in policing and our Community Safety Partnership is going from strength to strength.

“Whilst we do have gang and drug-related crime on our streets, as we do across the whole of Essex, it is a stretch too far to say there is ‘gang warfare’. Every day our specialist Operation Raptor team are out on our streets, proactively hunting down those involved in this type of crime, arresting them and putting them before the courts.

“Between January and December 2017, the South Operation Raptor team – which cover Basildon, Castle Point, Southend and Rochford – locked up drug dealers for a total of 109 years.

“That year they also seized drugs with a street value of £220,000, arrested 232 people suspected of drug and gang crime, seized £130,590 in criminal cash and took 40 weapons off the street.

“We will continue to work with our partners to tackle these issues but the use and carrying of weapons, and gang and drug-related crime can only be tackled if we work together as a community to educate and prevent people entering into this type of lifestyle and ensure that people are telling us about who and where these crimes are happening so we can arrest those involved.”