A POTENTIAL pitched battle in Hounslow High Street was prevented by police after rival gangs clashed in court, it has emerged.
Police flooded the town centre with officers days after youths from warring factions traded insults at Feltham Magistrates' Court.
Fearing the dispute would descend into violence, they stepped up stop and search measures in the High Street, leading to four arrests.
The operation, involving 30 cops from across the borough, took place on February 11 but details have only just emerged in a police report published this week.
The rival gangs, some members of which were known to frequent Hounslow town centre, clashed at court during a case on Tuesday, Feburary 8.
Officers 'identified and engaged' with youths at the known hotspot of Bell Corner the following day, where they found at least one gang-related graffiti tag.
That Friday, fearing the possibility of violence, police used additional stop and search powers in the town centre.
There was no violence during the period of the operation but four people were arrested and one youth was charged with failing to appear at court, while another was charged with a minor public order offence.
Hounslow sector inspector Huw Evans said: "The use of section 60 'stop and search' powers on this occasion was a preventative measure put in place because of a real possibility of violence in the crime hot-spot based on available intelligence.
"Hounslow Police are fully aware of the impact upon communities when making use of this power and only use it as a proportionate and necessary response to the threat present at the time.
"As part of the planning process, key partners were informed, including local schools. In conjunction with the town centre CCTV operators police were able to intervene with groups of youths, conduct searches when appropriate and, as a result, prevent any violence during the time period of the operation."
Hounslow town centre is a known hotspot for violent and knife-enabled crime, particularly on Friday evenings.
Police are working with the council's licensing team in a bid to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder.