VIGILANTE gangs are starting to emerge on Canvey following a string of violent robberies.

Residents are threatening to take matters into their hands - after three robberies were committed in the space of 48 hours.

They are the latest in a series of appalling crimes where armed robbers have been targeting shops.

The latest raid happened at the Co-op, in Meppel Avenue, where a man marched in and demanded cash from the till at about 4.30pm on Monday.

The staff member saw a knife in his pocket so they handed over a two figure sum of cash.

An elderly lady was also mugged after she withdrew cash from the machine by BP garage in Long Road at about 8pm on Saturday.

Sick robbers also knocked another elderly woman to the ground as they stole her handbag. Another robber struck as their elderly victim was crossing a bridge over the dyke in Meadow View Walk.

They caused a cut to her hand when they ripped the bag from it, at about 12.45pm on Monday.

A brave youngster chased the robber and managed to retrieve the bag.

One man, who would not be named, said people had enough and had been talking about taking the law into their own hands.

He said: “There has been a spate of muggings, burglaries and robberies on Canvey and now a vigilante group are out after blood. People have been out there in cars trying to search for the robbers, and taking baseball bats trying to hunt them down. “They are trying to take matters into their own hands because there doesn’t seem to have been any response from the police.”

Supt Andy Prophet said: “We’ve heard reports that some people in Canvey have said they will carry out patrols but we can’t condone such activities.

“If people want to help us we would prefer that they dial 999 if they witness a crime in progress or call 101 if the information is less urgent.

“Residents can also help by setting up Neighbourhood Watch groups or by joining the Special Constabulary.

“We do have a local Neighbourhood Policing Team based at Canvey and operating out of Canvey police station. Those officers are supported by colleagues from county-wide specialist units, as and when required. Special operations have been run in Canvey in recent weeks to tackle knife crime and burglaries, and these are continuing.”

The man who struck at the Co-op is described as aged aged 20 to 30, stocky, and about six feet tall. He was wearing a black waist-length hooded coat, grey trousers and trainers.

The robbers who struck near the cashpoint were white youths, about six feet tall, and were wearing hoodies.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.