TARGETED attacks between rival drug gangs have left Southend resembling a ‘battlefield’, a councillor has said.

A Homicide prevention review of 3,000 offences over five years found a quarter of were linked to gangs and county lines while 62 per cent of those involve the use of a knife, according to data from Southend Council’s annual safeguarding partnership report.

The same gangs are responsible for eight per cent of all serious violence across the borough.

“Essentially, it is a battlefield between gangs,” councillor Martin Terry, cabinet member for public protection, said.

“We are seeing a lot of these attacks are targeted attacks involving people, who are either, trying to sell drugs on someone else’s patch or vice versa and it’s absolutely shocking. We don’t want it in our community.”

The independent councillor said that police have so far had “a lot of success” in tackling the problem through its specialist Operation Raptor team but added there was a need to “keep our foot on the gas”.

“What we need to do is get behind that and get to the networks of the gangs and shut them down,” he said.

Rapper and anti-knife campaigner Sonny Green says the issue of gang violence can be largely traced to the lack of economic opportunities for young people.

“Children and teenagers have a lack of opportunities to earn money legitimately. So, they chose illegitimate routes and get involved in gangs and making money through crime,” he said.

The 26-year-old, who stood as a Labour candidate in the 2019 local elections, added: “To solve this problem we need to create more opportunities for young people, more chances to earn a legitimate income.

“It’s as bad here as it is in London, but it’s not just Southend, it’s every town and city in the country, especially seaside towns.”

In October, Essex Police’s drug squads made 39 arrests, 25 of whom were charged and remanded, across south Essex and seized more than £170,000 in cash.

A spokesperson for the force added: “Since February, the Op Raptor South team have disrupted or taken down around 90 county lines, made more than 160 arrests and charged and remanded around 120 people.

“We’re also using other legal avenues such as gang injunctions. In September another six people made subject to injunctions, taking the total to 20.”

Members of the Leigh Lot gang - also known as Leigh Mandem and Leigh Boys – have been made subject to injunctions to curb spiralling violence with rival gangs and drug dealing.

Another gang, O Block, also referred to as the Westcliff O’s and 12 Block, also have injunctions against them to stop them associating with each other in public place or a place which the public have access to.