POLICE are increasing patrols and working with schools after reports of a “kidnapping pair” roaming the streets.

The move is a major u-turn after the force initially brushed off the claims, saying no criminal offences had been committed and no investigation launched.

Numerous parents reported a couple were engaging with children across south Essex - but Essex Police still insists there is no danger or risk to families.

At least three schools have now sent out letters warning parents.

Mum-of-one Ellen Newby, from Leigh, who was “ambushed” by a woman in the street who she feared was trying to take her daughter said it’s not good enough.

She said: “It feels like the police will only act when someone’s child is taken. I still don’t really believe the police are involved or working on it.

“I think it’s good schools are issuing information and it’ll help. I know it’s the talk of the playgrounds with lots of mums aware of it. I’ve also seen fewer children on their own around London Road in Leigh - which could be connected to this.”

It comes as at least three parents issued warnings on Facebook claiming a man and woman were very interested in their children and were acting strangely in Leigh and Southend.

Essex Police Supt Bonnie Moore said: “Following ongoing concerns regarding reports circulating online about people acting suspiciously around young people in south Essex, we want to reassure you that we are aware of the reports and are urging parents to remain vigilant and report any concerns to us.

“We know reports like these will be concerning for parents and families and we continue to have officers patrolling across south Essex, including the areas the reports involve, providing a visible presence.

“We are ensuring officers are focussing on areas where the reports have emanated from and our Children and Young People officers are liaising with schools.

We are also liaising with our local authority partners.

“We have reviewed the infor - mation available to us including reports made to us and information on social media and, at this time, have not been able to identify a link between the locations, descriptions of people or actions being reported.

“Based on the intelligence we have, we do not believe there is a risk to the general public. Any threat assessment is dynamic and will be reviewed.”