“With great horsepower, comes great responsibility”: that’s the message from Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow following a car cruise in Southend last weekend.
“Everyone that works in, resides in and visits Essex should know that we are #ProtectingAndServingEssex every single day to keep you, the public, safe,” he said.
“Saturday night saw some irresponsible and dangerous driving along Southend’s seafront. This behaviour was unacceptable and put the safety of pedestrians and other road users at risk.
“We welcome careful and responsible drivers on Essex roads, but if people can’t use their cars safely, then you can expect us to do all we can to take their licence and their cars away from them.”
Lockdown has eased and everyone wants to enjoy a day out at the seaside or countryside exploring some of the wonderful sights that Essex has to offer.
But on Saturday, road closures and a dispersal order needed to be put in place to deal with anti-social behaviour from a large number of drivers and their cars after they descended on Southend’s sea front for a car cruise, posing a very serious risk to the safety of spectators, bystanders and other cars and property.
Ch Supt Anslow said: “At least 200 cars and motorcycles brought disruption to Southend’s sea front on Saturday evening for a car cruise. When people gather at these events, it’s normally about like-minded car enthusiasts meeting up to view and admire the other cars on display; but when drivers start putting themselves, their passengers and others at risk, we will put a stop to their dangerous, anti-social driving and arrest anyone committing offences.
“Speeding, driving dangerously and performing wheel spins close to members of the public who were standing in the road and on the footpath last Saturday were some of the offences that took place.
“The nature of the driving, the number of people and vehicles involved, and the risks that created, meant we had to pull in resources from across the county to deal robustly with what was happening. We put a dispersal order in place and closed the road to make the seafront safe; our investigation into those responsible for dangerous driving is ongoing.
“Any driver at a car cruise who puts someone else at risk is selfish. If they can’t make the right decision, we will make it for them. The public’s safety is always our priority and we will take any action necessary to put a stop to dangerous driving and risky manoeuvres.
“We have a range of powers that we will use to tackle car cruise-related issues and just as we did on Saturday evening, we can and will, close roads to prevent any further disruption to those going about their business.”
“I want to be really clear,” he continued, “we have powers to seize any vehicles committing offences at car cruises – would you want to take that risk? It would be embarrassing to admit you no longer have your car because you were doing things that you didn’t need to do.
“And that could have wider implications to your life that you might not think about in the heat of the moment – imagine you couldn’t drive to work and you lost your job over a car cruise and the actions you took. It could be devastating to you and your family.
“Further action that will be taken in connection to future car cruise meets include additional patrols at the location to prevent anti-social driving offences, local officers will again be supported by specialist officers from Roads Policing, enforcement action will be taken against offenders and dispersal orders will be put in place that unfortunately will affect local people and local businesses.
“We will work with our partners and, with the support of the community, we will identify anyone who crosses the line and challenges the law.
“When officers deal with poor driving and anti-social behaviour, they will be wearing body worn cameras to capture the offences and we would encourage the public to send us any footage they too capture so we can work together to enforce the law.
“Our residents and businesses don’t have to put up with this type of behaviour. We have an ‘open for business, closed for crime’ approach.
“We don’t want businesses to suffer now that we are coming out of lockdown, but the onus will be on the irresponsible drivers themselves.
“Once a dispersal order is in place, officers will direct people to leave the area and breaching any direction given under the order is a criminal offence in itself.
“Bystanders and spectators, please consider your own safety; if you really need to watch, make sure you are doing it from a safe distance. And if you come across one that you think has the potential to cause issues and causes you concerns, then call us; make that report and we will stop it.”
Anyone with any further information about Saturday’s car meet and anyone with footage of dangerous and anti-social driving is asked to contact police online or use the ‘Live Chat’ button to speak to an online operator between 7am-11pm.
Alternatively, you can call 101.
Information can also be given to independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.