Southend shops caught selling knives and dangerous substances to children

Police in Southend
-Credit: (Image: Essex Police/Al Underwood)

An undercover investigation into the sales of knives and dangerous substances in Southend has found several shops breaching regulations. The operation involved Southend-on-Sea City Council's trading standards team and Essex Police to address the issue.

Three of the six stores sold knives or dangerous substances. The council said the findings indicated a need for increased vigilance, education and prevention.

Stores found to be selling restricted items to minors will initially receive a reminder of their legal obligations and a formal warning. These stores will be subject to re-testing shortly thereafter, and any repeated failure to comply will result in further action by Trading Standards.

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Alan Richards, executive director for environment and place, said: “Ensuring the safety of our young people is a top priority. This collaboration between Southend-on-Sea City Council and Essex Police aims to reinforce the responsibilities of local retailers in preventing underage sales of potentially dangerous items. By working together, we can create a safer environment for everyone in our community."

Police officers in Southend work alongside the council, British Transport Police, c2c railway and seafront businesses as part of Operation Union. This sees officers maintain a constant presence during the busy summer months, providing a visible deterrent to anyone who misbehaves and diffusing any potential flashpoints.

Operation Union began in 2021 after the city saw huge influxes of day-trippers as the Covid restrictions were relaxed. Last year, officers on Union patrols made 77 arrests and completed 322 stop and searches, with 45 per cent leading to the discovery of illegal items including drugs, weapons and stolen goods.

Knife-enabled crime is down by 20 per cent in Southend in the 12 months to date, when compared with the same period last year. Across this period, there have been 215 knife-enabled offences recorded.

The undercover operation comes as the Knife Angel was unveiled in Southend on July 1. It will remain in place at the top of the High Street until July 28.

Chief Inspector Jo Collins, Southend district commander, said: "The Knife Angel is a poignant and striking reminder of the devastation caused by knife crime, across individual families and across our wider communities. We’re working hard to make Southend a safe place for the people who live and work here, and for those who visit.

"We also introduced Safe Space in August 2023 following a review of crime data within Southend, which highlighted hotspot areas where the public can readily find and talk to us. It’s really important we continue to maintain a highly visible presence.

"We’re in the places where we’re needed most, we’re helping people who are vulnerable, and we’re building relationships with the people and our partners who are in those areas. There were 48 deployments of Safe Space in Southend where a significant number of stop searches were conducted, resulting in weapons being seized and arrests made.

"These deployments ran alongside the day-to-day work to tackle knife crime, including the use of knife arches, intelligence and proactive policing to identify people who are carrying them."