A GANG lifestyle carries a huge price tag, Southend’s police chief has warned.

Southend district commander Chief Insp Neil Pudney said he is determined not to see young children forced down a path to committing crimes in drug gangs.

His comments come as Essex Police, Southend Council and the Echo launch phase three of a campaign to tackle out-of-town drug gangs in the borough.

It will include a hard-hitting 12A, 15 and 18 rated films at the Odeon cinema, starting from today, displays on buses and bus stops, plus children at high schools in the borough will have provocative screensavers on school PCs, and there will be posters and digital screens put up around schools.

Doctors and hospitals will also be displaying posters.

The children’s services teams are also running workshops in schools and will be showing the video as part of discussions with children.

A short version of the video will also be shared across Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

Mr Pudney said: “We know the gangs that prey on and exploit vulnerable young people will start off offering them gifts or incentives to entice them in.

“Before long those children will find themselves owing a debt to gang leaders and forced to pay that off by selling or couriering drugs and in some cases even perpetrating violence.

“The gang lifestyle is one with a very high price attached, you will end up perpetrating or become the victim of violence, you may end up arrested and imprisoned.

“We want to stop that before it happens by showing young people the grim and nasty reality of what that lifestyle is really like.

“We would urge any young people who want help to get away from a gang and out of this lifestyle to visit this website and take the first step in getting help.”

The police’s specialised drug squads - Operation Raptor - which consists of plain clothes officers are also fully supporting the campaign.