Residents are ‘fed up to the back teeth’ with a rise in anti-social behaviour and vandalism in Littlehampton, according to one councillor.
The topic was raised last week by James Walsh (Lib Dem, Beach) who described how car screens and wing mirrors are being smashed, while open drug dealing is taking place on streets.
He said: “All these things are increasing. The way to prevent it is community policing, walking patrols of Police Community Police Officers and police officers - the reintroduction of regular walking street patrols in our town centres and other areas where we have concerns.”
Dr Walsh described how ‘largish gangs’ were causing problems in Littlehampton, but also Rustington and Angmering, adding: “We need to make sure this is dealt with before it gets out of hand.”
He and a number of other Arun district councillors raised concerns at Wednesday’s meeting about the falling number of Sussex Police officers over the last decade even if Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne had pledged to use a recently-agreed council tax rise to step up recruitment.
Earlier this month Sussex Police welcomed a further 72 new PC recruits, the largest intake of new officers in a decade.
They have just started 15 weeks of intensive training and will join policing teams across the county this June.
David Edwards (Con, Felpham West) said: “This is a positive step in the right direction.”
But Mike Northeast (Lab, Courtwick with Toddington) said: “That’s not even making up the shortfall from the amount of officers that have been cut from the force. There’s no doubt about that.”
Mike Clayden (Con, East Preston), cabinet member for community services, said the council’s anti-social behaviour team was doing a ‘fantastic job’ getting to the route cause of youngsters’ behaviour and stopping it escalating.
He said: “It’s not a perfect system as they sort one out and another one comes up.”
He highlighted how Mrs Bourne is ‘refocused on community policing’.
The police’s part of the council tax precept is due to rise by £24 a year for a Band D property to help hire 200 extra staff.
But he also said: “It’s not just the police’s fault. Everyone has a parent or guardian at home. We also have to remember it’s not just the police it’s the wider society that needs to look at the problems.”
Dudley Wensley (Con, Angmering and Findon), cabinet member for corporate support, added: “The PCC is making progress and I for one would like to thank the Chancellor [Philip Hammond] for the extra £100m pounds [nationally] to fight knife crime.”
Paul Wells (LDem, Hotham) was less than impressed with some of the contributions from the Conservative benches.
He asked if the cabinet members had been commissioned by the PCC to put out a statement on her behalf.
He added: “The PCC has to take responsibility for the cuts she has made.”
Mr Wells said he couldn’t accept it was the council’s responsibility to combat anti-social behaviour on its own.
He said: “They are having to pick up the tab and the job and work that if there were more police out on the streets we would not have the problems in the first place.”
Although he conceded they were never going to get back to the levels of police they had before, the force was becoming much more reactive.