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While the VVU brings together partners to tackle the root causes of why people become involved in violent crime, knife crime and gangs it is important that the enforcement activity remains high profile and centre stage.

Enforcement activity not only catches and punishes criminal behaviour, but it reassures and protects the Essex public, and helps safeguard and support those who may be exploited through criminal activity.

Thanks to the Essex Police Serious Violence Unit, set up in Summer 2020, work to dismantle and disrupt county lines and drug gangs, and target knife offenders continues at pace. Between January and March 2021, 19 county drugs lines were dismantled, with suspects arrested, charged and any phones used taken away.

Supported by the VVU, 19 people have been safeguarded – vulnerable adults and children who are exploited by gangs, perhaps because they have a drugs habit, abuse alcohol, have mental health problems or are young and can be intimidated easily. These people are now in touch with agencies which can help them break free from their association with gangs.

While the likelihood of being injured by a knife is low, with Essex being among the top ten safest police force areas for this, Essex Police’s Operation Sceptre is the name of the targeted crackdown on knife crime, which is part of the day to day work to identify and deal with anyone intent on committing crime.

Since June, officers, including Special Constabulary, have dedicated more than 5,875 extra hours to patrol areas identified for extra focus.

They use stop and search powers where appropriate and knife arches to identify anyone carrying weapons or drugs. More than 225 separate policing operations have been carried out under Operation Sceptre. This includes work to gather information and evidence to take action against offenders, with more than 800 arrests made.