POLICE have increased patrols in a drug dealing hotspot after the community raised concerns an underpass was becoming unsafe.

Residents near Hastings Road and Lancaster Gardens in Southend said in the past week, antisocial behaviour and drug dealing has become a permanent fixture in the underpass which links the roads.

Lesley Hodderson, 49, who lives nearby, said: “I have used this underpass all my life and have never had any issues until now.

“In the past week, I have noticed gangs of young men hanging around in there who are openly drug dealing and drinking alcohol.

“I have now warned my children not to use it at all because you just don’t know what could happen when that kind of thing is going on.”

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said she no longer feels safe using the underpass at night.

She said: “It’s got so bad recently - I used to use it to get to and from work but now I would rather walk the long way around just to avoid it.

“There always seems to be a group of men stood in there drinking alcohol.

“I haven’t seen them dealing drugs but why else would you hide in an underpass all afternoon and evening?”

Matt Dent, the Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, raised his concerns with Southend police who have since increased their patrols.

He said: “Following reports from residents, I’ve contacted the local police and the council’s Community Safety Team regarding increased levels of drug dealing activity at the underpass linking Hastings Road and Lancaster Gardens. I am particularly concerned that the increase is down to the closure of the roads for gas works.

“As a result of my reports, the area is going to be targeted by police patrols. I encourage residents witnessing anything that causes them concern to report it to the police.”

Insp Ian Hughes, of Southend Police, said: “Following reports of drug dealing and antisocial behaviour, officers have been patrolling locations in an effort to identify offenders and disrupt activity. This is not a one-off and will continue. We complete regular patrols in both uniform and plain clothes daily.”