USE of a high tech weapons detector in Southend has allowed for ‘better capabilities’ when finding knives and other potential weapons on criminals.

A second OpenGate weapons detection system was introduced in Southend earlier this year and a police boss has spoken about its benefits in comparison to knife arches and stop and search.

District Commander Paul Hogben was instrumental in the OpenGate project before his move to Castle Point and Rochford.

He said: “A big chunk of it is the deterrent factor, the beauty of Open Gate compared to traditional knife arches is it allows for great discrimination.

“People can pass through with their normal effects such as car keys, loose change, whatever without setting off the device.

“It’s only when you add a chunky piece of metal indicative of a knife or other weapon then it triggers.”

There is now a second OpenGate weapons detector on the streets of Southend after the local business community donated one to the force.

Southend Community Policing Team were the first in the country to use the £15,000 system, which is specifically designed to detect dense metal objects.

The OpenGate is more mobile and less conspicuous than a conventional knife arch and has popped up at locations across Southend including Marine Parade, the High Street, outside Southend Victoria and Southend Central train stations and by Adventure Island.

District Commander Hogben added: “We go very big with our advertising of it and its capability with a view that people see the whole area as less inviting to carry a knife around.

“Then we use our plain clothes officers on the peripheries of these areas to pick up anyone who looks like they’re actively trying to avoid the checkpoints and we’ve had success with this.”

A huge effort has been put in by Essex Police to introduce new technology for more efficient ways to catch criminals in Southend.

Along with OpenGate systems, Essex Police used live facial recognition for the first time on October 24 in Southend High Street.

Two people were arrested in connection with a robbery and an outstanding warrant.