THE fight against late-night crime was taken to the streets of St Neots on Friday (June 27) as police set up airport style metal detectors and used sniffer dogs to search pub goers. The operation was the first of its kind in the town for more than 10 year

ON THE SCENT: Police dog Jasper sniffs for drugs.

THE fight against late-night crime was taken to the streets of St Neots on Friday (June 27) as police set up airport style metal detectors and used sniffer dogs to search pub goers.

The operation was the first of its kind in the town for more than 10 years and was aimed at tackling the nationwide problems of knife crime and drug use.

Officers set up a scanning arch at the entrance to the Priory bar in Market Square, with partygoers also facing sniffer dogs on the door.

More than 700 people passed through the police searches between 9pm and 1am in the operation that involved 24 officers working with CCTV operators and pub door staff to catch people trying to avoid the searches.

Fifteen were caught out by sniffer dogs and one person was arrested for possession of Class A drugs and another cautioned for possession of a 'bladed article'.

Sgt Rachel Gourlay and Pc Neil English, of the St Neots and District Neighbourhood Policing Team, led the operation and said it had been a success.

"This operation has gone some way in deterring people from carrying offensive weapons and offered public reassurance in relation to the growing concern over knife crime," said Sgt Gourlay. "We are happy with the response we received from the public and will be looking at running it again."

She added: "Last year the drugs issue in the town was highlighted with a series of high profile arrests and we do not want to let it get to that stage again. St Neots is a safe place to live but like any other town it does suffer from drugs and we are here to stamp that out."

Priory manager Mark Kretay said he supported the police operation, despite it having an impact on trade.

"It might be a bit quieter [on Friday] but if it shows people that we will not tolerate drugs then it's worth it," he said. "We do not get much trouble here but we want to make it clear that drugs and weapons will not be tolerated inside the Priory."

In addition to the searches, police walked around the town centre visiting pubs and breathalysing drivers on the Market Square and High Street.

The operation was a direct response to concerns from residents about late night disorder in Market Square and South Street. The problems were highlighted at a meeting of the St Neots and District Neighbourhood Policing panel meeting.

Pc English said the success of Friday's operation means metal detectors and sniffer dogs could become a regular sight in the town centre: "We did this to be seen and to show the public that we are directly responding to their concerns. This is the first time an operation of this kind has taken place in St Neots in the 11 years I have worked here. We will hopefully be able to do this every other month and could even try it covert. We are responding to what the public want and a highly visible operation such as this will act as a deterrent to those who are tempted to break the law in St Neots.