A CRACKDOWN on serious crime has seen police intercept more than 100 parcels filled with drugs and weapons which were bound for Essex.

Essex Police has been working with the UK Border Force on a faster referral system for dealing with drugs, prohibited weapons and firearms components that are flown into the UK via a postal hub near Heathrow.

During the past nine months, police have been notified of 123 suspicious packages by Border Force, with 67 of the parcels contained weapons and the other 56 stashed with drugs.

It forms part of a project - called Operation Gloss - which has seen officers arrest or search the homes of people set to buy the suspicious packages.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Knife crime and serious violence wreak havoc in our communities, which is why we are giving police forces more resources and powers to keep the public safe.

“Action like Operation Gloss, along with the wider efforts of police, Border Force and other law enforcement agencies, are vital when it comes to stopping dangerous weapons reaching our streets.”

Police say they have found a range of weapons when carrying out warrants in connection with Operation Gloss, including knuckle duster knives, stun guns disguised as mobile phones and knives concealed in items like bracelets and a walking stick.

But officers have also found illegal weapons which have been unwittingly purchased by Essex residents, such as a Samurai sword for display purposes and a baton to protect a dog from being attacked.

Det Chief Insp Lewis Basford, of the Serious Violence Unit, said: “Ultimately we’re making sure these weapons and drugs don’t get onto the streets of Essex.

“Working with Border Force, we are quickly identifying buyers and taking appropriate action.

“Sometimes we find that people buy items online and don’t realise they are illegal in the UK. In those cases, our approach is primarily to explain and educate.

“But we are also identifying individuals who are knowingly committing offences but think they can get away with it. They won’t.”

Police say some matters connected to weapons or drugs are dealt with through a caution or community resolution, or referring someone to a diversionary scheme.

The ongoing work with Border Force also comes ahead of new legislation, which will make it an offence to possess certain weapons in a private place, and to deliver or arrange deliver certain weapons.

DCI Basford said: “Tackling knife and drugs crime can’t be resolved through enforcement alone.

“Helping people understand the law and the impact of buying, carrying and using weapons is just as important.

“If we can intervene at the earliest opportunity we can prevent people from being harmed and help young people steer away from crime.

“That’s where our prevention and safeguarding work with the Violence and Vulnerability Unit and ongoing work with professionals working in social care, public health, youth offending services, and charities, is vital.”