POLICE have tonight launched a huge dispersal zone across Southend and deployed additional stop-and-search powers to "keep people safe" following targeted reports and weapons being seen.

The dispersal zone is from Station Road in Westcliff up to Southchurch.

It takes in the seafront and town centre.

The order was put in place tonight and continues to the early hours of the morning.

A police spokesman said: "It was reported that from 7pm this evening, Monday 19 July, there were several linked disturbances throughout the town.

"Following several targeted assaults and reports of weapons being seen, officers have been authorised to use stop and search powers under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

"This is essentially an extension of the stop and search powers officers already have been differs because it means they do not need to have reasonable grounds to carry a stop and search out."

A dispersal order is in place for the same area, which gives officers the power to move people away from the area. They can be arrested if they don't comply, or return to that area within a certain time period.

Both orders came into place from 8.15pm this evening and will run until 4am tomorrow, Tuesday 20 July.

They cover Marine Parade and Western Esplanade to the south, the entirety of Southchurch Park to the east, Queensway to the north, and Hamlet Court Road and part of Station Road to the west.

The order also incorporates Chalkwell, Southend Central, Southend Victoria and Southend East Railway Stations, and we are working with our partners in the British Transport Police for support.

Inspector Andrew Jopson said: "I know that some of this evening's incidents will have caused concern amongst the community, but we are working hard to ensure that there is no risk to the wider public.

"We won't tolerate criminal or anti-social behaviour in Southend, and these orders will give my officers extra powers throughout the night to prevent any more disturbances from taking place.

"We're here to keep you safe, so don't be alarmed if you see a large police presence this evening.

"I'd like to thank the locals for their patience and their understanding and, if you have any information that you think could help us, please call 101 or dial 999 in an emergency."

Earier in the evening, a string of police cars and ambulance emergency response units were seen in Westcliff. 

No details have yet been released by police over what has prompted the dispersal zone.

Echo: The dispersal zone aross Southend tonightThe dispersal zone aross Southend tonight

In recent weeks, Southend has seen a series of incidents triggering dispersal zones and additional stop-and-search powers. 

They included yobs travelling to Southend in a spate of attempted robberies. 

A spokesman for Essex Police said tonight: "We'll be using extra stop and search powers and a dispersal order for the map outlined.

"Both orders came into place from 8.15pm this evening and will run until 4am tomorrow, Tuesday 20 July."