Littlehampton residents were told ‘we aren’t in the 20th century anymore’ at a meeting where they grilled police bosses about the force’s visibility in our town.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne made the comment at a public meeting held on Tuesday night at the town council building in Church Street, Littlehampton.
She was joined by Arun District Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Marc Clothier. They answered questions about a perceived lack of police officers from residents peeved by anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
Several groups mourned the loss of police community support officers who had a fixed ‘beat’. Among them was the Friends of Mewsbrook Park, which has lost £1,200 of plants this year to vandals and called for this meeting.
Chairman Clive Fennell said: ‘We don’t want these kids locked up, just pointed in the right direction – but you can’t do that from your office, you have to do it on the streets.”
Inspector Clothier assured residents that they were in the community, but working under a new flexible model where they could be put ‘in the right place at the right time’ depending on when and where crimes were occuring.
This is part of a larger restructuring, which comes as Sussex Police faces budget constrictions. Mrs Bourne said: “The policing you see is only a fraction of the policing you get. The whole point of changing this model is because the police has to adapt.”
In response to officers walking a beat, she added: “It is about understanding we aren’t in the 20th century anymore. It is not just about changing the budget, it is about the changing nature of crime”, quoting online fraud as an example. She also cited how smartphones were making it easier for officers to work in the community.
Nigel Anderson from the Mariners Quay residents’ group said a series of break-ins to boats had not been followed up by officers after an initial 101 call due to a lack of leads. He was ‘alarmed’ by the new responsive police structure because he believed less people were reporting crime – a sentiment shared by many people at the meeting.
He said: “People aren’t reporting crime anymore because they are that fed up with poor responses.”
Mrs Bourne said she would meet with residents’ groups to see if she could improve communication between them and police.