POLICE deployed their new “weapons detection system” and blocked off Southend High Street in a determined effort to find anyone carrying knives.

Two police vans effectively blocked off entry to the seafront, forcing visitors to walk through the gap.

There, specialist “knife poles”

were used to detect anyone carrying weapons intent on causing trouble.

Police used the hi-tech knife poles during the heatwave on Tuesday in an effort to avoid scenes of violence on the seafront.

It came as a dispersal order - giving police tough powers to move on groups - was in place throughout the day.

But despite the tactic, seafront traders claimed there were issues with “London gangs fighting, taking drugs and causing chaos”.

One man was arrested after inhaling laughing gas from a balloon on Southend seafront in front of officers.

Paul Thompson, owner of Pebbles One Cafe said: “I shut the cafe and Spar early due to the issues and to protect my staff. It was horrendous again with big gangs using laughing gas. I heard there was big groups running into shops and fighting with each other.”

Another business boss, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “There were mass gangs causing anti-social behaviour and using laughing gas.

There were high volumes of youths and gang culture and fights too. It was not a nice atmosphere on the seafront.”

An Essex Police spokesman added: “We responded to a limited number of instances of disorder along Southend seafront and acted quickly to make two arrests. Officers responded to quickly to reports of disorder and additional officers were deployed to the area to help deal with these incidents.”

An 18-year-old from London was arrested on suspicion of robbery, while a 16-year-old boy from London was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery.

Insp David Gardiner, from Southend Community Policing Team, said: “We had plans in place anticipating the high number of people and had a significant visible presence in and around the area.

“During the evening we also deployed further officers there which meant the seafront area returned to normality quickly. Working with CCTV operators, we were able to arrest two people in connection with a report of a robbery.”