AN IMITATION firearm and a knife have been seized as three men are arrested close to Lakeside.

Officers were carrying out patrols near to the popular shopping centre on Monday when they came across a minor crash at Arterial Road roundabout between two vehicles shortly after 7.30pm. 

They had seen a man holding a large amount of cash. When officers asked for identification, the man attempted to distract them from going near to his van. 

When the officers got close to the vehicle, they saw a baseball bat and two other men in the vehicle.

Once all three were detained, a search on the van uncovered a lock knife hidden under the driver’s seat as well as an imitation firearm.

There was also between £3,000 and £4,000 in cash found in the vehicle.

During a further search, officers found three vehicle registration plates and a number of sets of vehicle keys which did not relate to the van.

All three men were arrested on suspicion of possession of an imitation firearm, theft of motor vehicle and possession of an offensive weapon.

They have all now been bailed with conditions until July whilst Essex Police continue their investigation.

Chief Insp Tony Atkin, Thurrock district commander, said: “The officers who were quickly at the scene of this incident knew something wasn’t right and persevered even when the driver attempted to distract them from doing their duty.

“And thankfully they did. The severity of these items which have been seized speak for themselves – but it is very important to note that they are now off the streets of Essex and cannot cause harm to our Thurrock community.”

Essex Police say their investigation will also seek to uncover where the vehicle keys and registration plates originated from and identify further lines of enquiry.

The arrests come during a week of intensification in our work to tackle knife crime and serious violence across Essex.

In the year to April 2024, we recorded 1,519 knife-enabled offences across the county – 112 fewer offences than in the 12 months to April 2023.

This is a drop of 7 per year-on-year and a fall of 7.5 per cent compared to pre-Covid levels.