THE Chief Constable of Essex Police said he will happily hire more officers “if the Government give him more money”.

BJ Harrington’s comments come as the force’s town centre teams celebrated their one year anniversary.

The 58 constables have been deployed in teams across Essex including in Colchester, Clacton and Harwich.

Some teams have been working with schools to identify those at risk and use effective partnership work to prevent antisocial behaviour among young people.

This is linked to efforts to educate and prevent young people from becoming involved in knife and violent crime under Operation Sceptre.

Mr Harrington said he was “immensely proud” of his staff with the town centre teams bringing “a dedicated presence” to towns of Essex.

He said: “If Government give me more money, I will employ more officers, and I will deploy them across a range of things, some of them at town centres but some of the stuff is the bits you don’t see.”

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said the “budget squeeze” of police forces in recent years - including when Essex Police had to make spending cuts of more than £10 million in the 2016-17 financial year - meant the force was focussed on more serious incidents.

The town centre teams were designed to address this, and the force’s budget for the 2020/21 financial year rose by 5.7 per cent to £314.7 million.

He said: “We were in a situation where we needed to do more in terms of crime prevention.

“I think the budget squeeze of the previous years had undoubtedly meant the focus was on high harm responsiveness and it’s been leaving some of the public unloved, and communicated with and connected with and that’s what we have got to put right.

“Town centre teams have been a really important piece of that, as has the rural engagement team as has the business crime team, as has the pretty much doubling of the community policing teams across the county over the last few years.

“The next phase is going to be interesting because having done this and seen inquisitive crime – death, robbery and burglary – coming down over the last year.

“The things we really have to do next are prevention work around drug related violence and prevention work around domestic abuse.”