BOBBIES on the beat in town centres have held the thin blue line against criminals.

In the year since Essex Police launched its town centre team initiative, the 58 officers which make up the teams have made more than 1,000 arrests and led the force in at least 2,000 investigations.

By having a smaller area to cover, the officers have been able to spend more time talking to residents about their concerns and then taking necessary action.

Day-to-day activities for the officers have included catching drug dealers, shoplifters, those carrying weapons, as well as putting a stop to anti-social behaviour.

Recent successes include the execution of a warrant at a “chop shop” in which several stolen vehicles were recovered.

Over the year the officers have built close relationships with residents, businesses, community groups, councils and other organisations so they can get to the root of what is causing tension.

In November, one town centre team issued community protection warnings when anti-social people were affecting others’ day-to-day lives and confiscated dozens of bottles of alcohol from street drinkers.

The teams have also been clamping down on anti-social behaviour in parks, with a number of weapons being recovered.

Venues across Essex have worked with the teams to accommodate the use of knife arches to detect weapons and to raise awareness of the dangers of carrying knives.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “Since the launch of the town centre teams this time last year, public confidence has increased, which was welcomed by businesses.

“It is absolutely essential as lockdown reduces there will be an even greater need for these teams to be visible and to help instil confidence and assurances.”

Lynda McWilliams, Tendring councillor responsible for partnerships and chairman of the Tendring Community Safety Partnership, said the town centre teams in Clacton and Harwich had been good additions to policing in the district.

She said: “Having a dedicated team for our two biggest town centres means not only do the public have reassurance from high visibility policing – often patrolling with our own anti-social behaviour officer - the team can also build up relationships with businesses and pick up specific issues in these areas.”

Mike Lilley, Colchester councillor responsible for communities, said: “By working with all of its partners, including the council’s neighbourhood and community safety teams, the town centre police team has had a really positive impact.

“This is a fantastic example of partnership working which has been a huge asset.”