SEAFRONT traders have described a “horrible, toxic atmosphere” on Southend seafront as chaos unfolded and two men were stabbed.
Shocking scenes on the seafront on Friday during the heatwave saw police issue a dispersal order and increase powers to stop and search people for weapons.
Essex Police were forced to draft additional officers into the area from elsewhere in the county in response to the violence.
Now, seafront traders have described the seafront as “mayhem”.
But a police chief in Southend has rubbished claims his officers lost control of the streets on Friday and inists the force did everything it could to tackle the fighting.
Chief Insp Ian Hughes, District Commander for Southend, is also adamant his officers were prepared for trouble as large crowds gathered on the seafront as temperatres soared.
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Joan Tiney, from the Borough Hotel on the seafront, added: “I got down to the seafront at about 3.45pm and I could feel it and said I didn’t like the look of the situation.
“I was ridiculous and I am sure they were coming from London, Dagenham and Barking.
“It was mayhem and there was a horrible toxic atmosphere.
“There was no control whatsoever and I think police should have been prepared for this.
“Police should have been ready for it and I would also like to see knife arches at stations to stop them coming.”
Paul Thompson, owner of Pebbles One Café, was among a number of business owners forced to close early amid fears for the safety of staff.
He said: “We need to see police working ahead and planning for these of sort of incidents and there should have been planning as the weather was forecasted well in advance.
“We can’t keep having this happen, it was shocking and the stench of drugs along the seafront was unbelievable.”
Mr Thompson described the situation as a “shambles” claiming people openly using drugs on the seafront.
He added: “It was teenagers from London and big gangs, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“They were doing all sorts of drugs including cannabis, crack pipes and laughing gas.
“My staff were petrified and the police were just not doing anything and there wasn’t enough of them.
“We were told the force couldn’t bring in more resources and there was all sorts going on.
“The chippy had to be turned into an A&E to help someone who was stabbed.”
Speaking to the Echo, Mr Hughes said: “I do not think we could have done any more.
"It was not chaos. It was the hottest day of the year and as a result we had an increase of people coming to Southend.
“The two stabbings were due to people coming from outside of Essex and were known to each other and they decided to come to our town to commit these crimes.
“We’ve had operation unit in place since about April and it’s seen a rise in the number of officers and we will continue to see this into the summer."
Referring to the force's planning for an increase in visitors to Southend, Mr Hughes said: “We have weekly meetings and had put plans in place looking at the weather, intelligence we have about planned incidents, looking at previous incidents and events and working with traders.