SOMALI drug dealers are operating in a popular park in Southchurch, police have revealed.

Officers have launched an investigation after a gang was spotted prowling around Southchurch Park at night, searching for business.

The revelation has worried residents living around the park, which is popular with dog walkers, sports teams and children.

Lynda Dakin, 64, lives near the park and regularly uses it to walk her three dogs.

She said: “It is definitely worrying. It is a lovely park.

“My daughter has just given birth and I’ll want to walk my grand-daughter around the park, but I would be put off from bringing her here if I knew dealers were around.

“Maybe more security cameras or having a police officer walking round would be good, as it could prevent drug dealers from walking around and make park users feel safer.”

Somali drug gangs have plagued areas of Southend’s town centre for more than two years.

But their presence in the park is the first time they have been spotted outside their usual patches.

Police were alerted to the problem by members of the Burges Estate Res-idents’ Assoc-iation, which is chaired by Independent councillor Ron Wood-ley.

He said: “Officers are still pat-rolling the area. I know be-cause only the other day I bumped into them walking around the park.

“I have asked the council about installing CCTV cameras, particularly around the children’s play area, which would act as a bit of a deterrent.”

A spokesman for Essex Police added: “We are aware of the problem and are continuing with our high-visibility policing to deter the drug dealing.

“We are also doing a covert operation to make arrests related to the dealing.”

Anyone with information about drug dealing in the park should call 101.