A POLICE officer was threatened with a knife as a gang of youths surrounded him and shouted taunts in Swindon.

PC Paul Matthews, who was on patrol in Freshbrook at the time, was also assaulted while trying to arrest one of the youths.

The incident happened just after 10pm on Monday when the Freshbrook beat officer was on patrol in Godolphin Close.

He had gone to the close following reports of youths gathering in the area.

PC Matthews spoke to the group of teenage boys and asked them to disperse.

But they became abusive and surrounded him.

One of the youths then produced a knife and threatened him while the rest of the group continued with the taunts.

At this point PC Matthews called for back-up and the group made off. The constable then spotted one of the youths nearby, who then became violent when he tried to arrest him. Police said the youth pushed PC Matthews to the ground, causing injury to his elbow and damage to his mobile phone.

An 18-year-old man from the Freshbrook area was later arrested for a public order offence and assault with intent to resist arrest.

Other officers, including a dog handler, attended and the force helicopter was also used to find the offender with the knife.

But in spite of a search of the area he was not found.

Shortly after noon, yesterday a youth handed himself into Gablecross Police Station and was arrested on suspicion of threats to kill.

A third youth, a 16-year-old, also walked into the police station yesterday afternoon and was arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit grievous bodily harm. All three were still being questioned last night.

Insp Willie Glasgow, of Swindon police, said: "Fortunately it is rare that officers are put into circumstances like the one PC Paul Matthews was in.

"However, even one incident is one too many.

"We will not tolerate any incident where the safety of a police officer or any other person is put at risk.

"I want to send a clear message that we will robustly pursue those responsible for such actions."

One resident of Godolphin Close, who did not want to be named, said: "Kids in this area get a real raw deal and are scapegoated by the police all the time.

"Last night was no different.

"They're not even allowed to gather in one place now. It's ridiculous. If it was any other group in society than teenagers there would be an uproar."