Up to five marked vehicles and a helicopter were drafted in as part of a police incident last night.
Northumbria Police said there had been reports of a two car collision and following this a 38-year-old man was arrested this morning.
Residents in Whiteleas, South Shields, reported seeing officers armed with guns outside a house in Geoffrey Street, near Whiteleas Club, as well as on Boldon Lane and in the John Reid Road and Temple Park area.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police, said: "At around 8pm last night police received a report that two vehicles had been involved in a collision in the Lawrence street area of South Shields.
"Nobody was reportedly injured and the vehicles in question then left the scene before each being reported abandoned in the South Shields area in the early hours of this morning.
"Enquiries into the incident are ongoing but police believe the parties involved are known to each other and a 38-year-old man has been arrested on Oswald Street this morning.
"There is an extra police presence in the area today and anyone who witnessed the disorder, or has information that may help police, should call officers on 101 quoting log 4 09/03/18."
A taxi driver who was working a shift witnessed some of the police activity.
He said: "I saw about four or five of the BMW X5s when I was on a job on Boldon Lane and I saw them parked up.
"Then it was about 11.20pm and I saw them outside Whiteleas Club.
"There were about six of them around a police car and were holding guns."
The police helicopter was seen over the area between 9pm and 10pm.
Witnesses described the scene as being “like the wild west”.
They spotted an estimated five armed response vehicles, two of which parked in the back lane of Oswald Street. Unarmed police were also present, including dog handlers.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It was really quite frightening, like the wild west.
"The police stayed in the area all night, I’ve no idea what they’ve been up to all this time.”
A second witness said: “For about two hours the police cars didn’t stop, they just drove round and round the area, but then at about 11pm they converged on the house with their guns pointing at it.
“They had their masks on and were holding big rifles, it was a frightening scene."