CLAMPING down on drug dealing, violence and robberies involving youths in Southend’s town centre skate park is a top priority, a senior officer has insisted.

Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, district commander for Southend, insisted his officers are patrolling Warrior Square and the skate park regularly to provide a visible police presence.

The area is also included in Essex Police’s new “hot spot” operation called “Operation Grip”, which includes additional community based controls.

It follows a dispersal order being put in place on Monday night after a large fight broke out at the skate park.

Mr Hughes said: “Robberies, anti-social behaviour and violence are the main issues in this area as well as the fact these incident involve youngsters with the skate park there.

“We are working with the council and it’s adolescence team. Drug dealing is no higher in this part of the town than any other.

Echo: Efforts - Ian Hughes Efforts - Ian Hughes

“We also take into account how close this location is to the town centre, nighttime economy and the train lines and how it affects these issues and incidents.

“The new operation will see us identify small areas where data shows offences numbers are high and we will work with our partners and carry out high visibility patrols.

“We know we can’t be there all the time so other work includes, working to ensure CCTV is up to date and speed and identifying individuals to work and deterring them as well as looking at the profile of the victims.”

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Mr Hughes added that officers are working to identify those acting suspiciously and why they may be behaving in such a way.

Inspector David Gardiner, from the Southend community policing team, said: “We are aware of concerns relating to anti-social behaviour and drugs at the skate park in Warrior Square.

“We know how much of an impact these issues are on people living around the area and we’re working with our partners to tackle them.

“The area is regularly patrolled by officers. Where we have identified individuals we believe are responsible for causing issues we are taking enforcement action.”