Southend: New knife detector helps to keep the city safe
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A new mobile weapons detector is being deployed to keep knives off the streets of Southend.
Officers from the Southend Community Policing Team are the first in the country to use the OpenGate system, which is specifically designed to detect dense metal objects.
The OpenGate consists of two freestanding poles that are five feet high and is both more mobile and less conspicuous than a conventional knife arch.
The system has been in use for a month and has popped up at locations across Southend including Marine Parade, the High Street, outside Southend Victoria and Southend Central train stations and by Adventure Island.
As well as having uniformed officers at the gate, plain-clothes PCs position themselves nearby to spot anyone who suddenly makes a diversion when they see the detector. The individuals would then either be stopped or tracked using the council’s CCTV operators and apprehended.
Thousands of people have so far passed through the gate, with a number of weapons being recovered as a result.
Inspector Paul Hogben of the Southend Community Policing Team said the system, which was funded through the city’s Community Safety Partnership, is proving effective at disrupting people carrying weapons.
“The OpenGate is so much better for street tactics than what we’ve had previously. We can deploy it far more often than we could a knife arch and the feedback from members of the public has been fantastic.
“We’re able to demonstrate that it’s not just a metal detector, we’re looking for weapons and people are reassured by that.
“The OpenGate picks up metal mass, so as soon as someone triggers it, you’re having a conversation about what they’ve got on them that the machine has identified. If they can’t or won’t account for that, we’d be looking to search them.
“We’ve detected knives and picked up weapons where people have seen the deployment and discarded them before they’ve got to it. We’ve also seized a lot of nitrous oxide canisters.”
Inspector Hogben said that despite the focus on the knife carrying, there is no need for the public to be alarmed.
“Knife carrying in Southend is related to certain gangs and they are the people we are targeting.
"The OpenGate makes the city a more hostile place for these people to operate. They can’t predict when and where they might turn a corner and walk straight into a deployment.
“When we have had incidents involving knives, these have tended to be targeted, involving individuals known to each other.
“Southend is a safe place to live and to visit and we won’t let a tiny minority spoil things for residents and the thousands of visitors who come to the city every year.”
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