Ambulance call outs for youth violence peak in Southend

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The highest number of ambulance call outs for violence against young people in Essex is in Southend, a council report has revealed.

In the past two years, ambulances attended 40 Southend incidents that related to someone aged between 10 and 24 being stabbed or shot – the highest level in all of Essex.

This figure more than doubles to 90 when it is included among the total number of call outs for all violent incidents across the town.

The data has been revealed in a detailed report on Essex violence from Thurrock’s director of Public Health.

The report goes on to show Thurrock had the second highest level of call outs linked to knife or gun violence with 30 incidents, followed by Basildon with around 25.

However, the report explains that the figures are likely to underestimate of the true scale of the problem because it only shows incidents where injuries were serious enough to warrant an ambulance.

It also notes that in several incidents, victims have avoided calling the emergency services.

Councillor Martin Terry (Ind), who oversees public protection in Southend, said much of the problem can be attributed to county lines which involves drug networks operating across the country often overseen by larger gangs in London.

“We have these figures because we are now asking services to measure everything,” he said.

“With this data, for example, we may get incidents where an ambulance is called but it is not reported to the police. It is about trying to understand all the networks and what is happening.

“We know we have a massive problem in Southend and I have been trying to meet with the crime commissioner to ask him to recognise that we need more resources in the town.

“The issues are the result of us having such easy connectivity to London and people are applying their evil trade on our streets.”

Speaking of why violence is more prevalent in Southend than in neighbouring boroughs, Cllr Terry said Southend was Essex’s largest town with a large night time economy.

He added: “It is a place people want to be and therefore it can be more of a problem”.

The report goes on to explain that the rates of recorded crimes involving violence in Thurrock, Southend and Essex have “risen sharply” since 2013 and while these hit a high in 2016, they have declined “only slightly”.

It is largely linked to the use and sale of drugs. The report found in Thurrock the number of crack cocaine users aged between 15 and 64 has more than doubled in seven years.

Mr Terry added: “When people go out looking for some white powder, they often do not realise that the mechanism for delivering that white powder involves county lines which is exploiting vulnerable people.”

The findings will be discussed by Thurrock’s health and wellbeing board on Friday.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter