ARMED thugs have been seen roamed around a “problem” housing estate with knives, baseball bats and shovels.

In three separate incidents, the thugs caused panic among residents on the Somercotes estate in Laindon, prompting an increase in police powers in the area.

The estate has seen an increase in gang crime and anti-social behaviour.

Residents have also seen drug deals taking place in broad daylight in recent weeks, councillors have warned.

The estate also saw the tragic murder of 34-year-old James Gibbons, who was stabbed after coming to the aid of another man who had confronted noisy youths in May.

Bob Taylor, 74, from Laindon, said: “You only hear bad things about the estate.

“A lot of estates across the town have problems like this.”

Following the sightings of weapons, police officers were given extra stop and search powers under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Read more >> Police order in place after men and teens are seen with knives and baseball bats

Police chiefs warned of an increased officer presence on the estate.

Jeff Henry, councillor of the Laindon Park ward, said: “I’ve been told that cars are pulling up on the estate in the middle of the day, for a cyclist to then go past three times, before stopping for what loos like a drug deal.

“It’s not nice for people to see this going on.

“It’s a tough ask for police.

“Estates like these are getting bad names, but you have lovely people living on them. We’ve got young families trying to bring their kids up.

“It’s very worrying that people are leaving the house armed.

“Something has to give on the estate, we’ve already had the horrible incident in May.

“It’s getting really awful for residents, we have to have a zero tolerance approach.”

Essex Police was quizzed on whether any weapons were found on Friday morning, or if any arrests were made.

However the force failed to respond.

Inspector Dan McHugh said: “We will not tolerate people coming here intent on committing crime. These extended powers are just one of the tools we have available to protect the public.

“I want to thank the public for their understanding and co-operation.”