A SOMALI gang is running a ruthless drugs ring in Southend and Westcliff, it has been claimed.

The thugs are believed to be moving into rented properties in Westcliff to sell Class A drugs and then move on after a few months.

It has even been claimed the dealers are moving into vulnerable people’s homes and forcing them out, so they have a base for their dealing.

The fears have been raised by councillors and residents groups after a thief who appeared in court said he had been forced into crime because of threats from a gang of Somalis.

Martin Terry, Independent councillor for Westborough, highlighted the case last year of a prostitute who had to be given a change of identity after she was threatened by the dealers.

He said: “Prostitution, gangs, guns and knives are all part and parcel of this desperate, disgusting trade and it’s all about using vulnerable people and picking on young people. Once that person gets addicted, that’s it, they’ve got them hooked.

“What we’ve heard about the gang is very, very worrying because it’s something new. I think they are prepared to go to extreme lengths to achieve their aims and the last thing we want in this town, or any town, is the turf war gang-related crime.”

He is now calling for all private landlords to be registered.

This is because dealers often have the money to pay a deposit on a house, live in it for three months, and then move on.

Mr Terry called for residents to help the police build up a better picture of how they operate.

He said: “The police are doing a great job and we need the assistance of residents in the area.

“Especially if they see anyone driving around a lot, talking to people on the road, looking as if they are doing deals.

“What the police need is any registration numbers and any intelligence we can get – the more the better.”

Anyone with information can call Southend police on 0300 333111 or CrimeStoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.