AN area of Harlow which has become known for criminal and gang activity will be the first place in Essex to benefit from a national scheme to reduce crime and fix troubled neighbourhoods.

The Stow has been chosen to take part in Clear, Hold, Build, a Home Office initiative which brings the police and other public services together to tackle offending and address underlying issues affecting communities.

It aims to produce sustained, long-term change in places that have been blighted by serious and organised crime by pursuing offenders, breaking up and dispersing gangs, and creating strong, resilient neighbourhoods.

Chief Inspector Paul Austin, Harlow’s district commander, said: “The Stow has been an area of concern for some time due to instances of crime and anti-social behaviour.

“The shops and library are well used by the local community and it is a hub for the elderly and some of the more vulnerable people in society.

“We want the Stow to be a place where people can flourish and live free of concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Epping Forest Guardian: Visible - Chief Inspector Paul Austin and Inspector Leanne Archer patrolling HarlowVisible - Chief Inspector Paul Austin and Inspector Leanne Archer patrolling Harlow (Image: Essex Police)

Essex Police says surveys reveal young people feel it is the area of the town where crime, anti-social behaviour, and gang activity is of the biggest concern.

New signage has recently been added to the area to encourage people to report crime anonymously following a link-up between the police, the Safer Harlow Partnership, and the independent charity Crimestoppers.

About 5,000 leaflets have also been delivered to residents to highlight what officers believe are the biggest issues in the Stow and to alert people to the signs of offending.

Mr Austin added: “Clear, Hold, Build is about the community and organisations coming together to offer a wide range of support services and making sure criminality can’t flourish.

“As it’s a community project, it’s incredibly important to find out what people in the Stow are thinking and feeling.

“I want local residents to be able be access education, youth and sports facilities, and to feel the Stow is a place that’s looked after, on the up, and police and partners care about.”