Dispelling urban myth from fact and integrating Littlehampton’s ethnic community is the goal of a new scheme launched this week.
The initiative, entitled Project Unity, aims at encouraging members from the growing community of Lithuanians, Polish and Latvians to join one of the area’s neighbourhood watch programmes.
It’s hoped that by recruiting from these groups, the town will be able to respond to crime in a more effective way as well as getting this often closely-knit community involved in some of the area’s future projects.
Organiser Mike Cullern, who hosted a display at the Littlehampton Market, on Friday, advertising the approach, said: “To us, there is a real lack of any voice from the town’s minorities – particularly when it comes to helping with law enforcement.
“We believe this is just due to a cultural difference – the way their police operate in their countries is completely different. They are fairly harsh.
“I think this is something that’s come over to our country.
“We really just want them to have their own say on community issues and to be able to communicate any problems they’ve had with our police force.”
Project Unity will be trialled in River ward as a special branch of the area’s Neighbourhood Watch.
The scheme, which will work in conjunction with West Sussex Fire and Rescue and Sussex Police and other community groups, is hoped to encourage members of the ethnic population to have a say on the problems and crime that affect them – from anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related abuse, to violence and drug offences.
Mike added: “There is a real misconception that ethnic minorities are responsible for around 90 per cent of the crime in the area.
“That’s completely wrong. In actual fact they are only really responsible for about two or three per cent .
“Going out into the community now and gaining the trust of minority and ethnic groups could, in the future, be of immense advantage to all of the towns’ wards.
“Giving all residents a way by which they can talk openly about problems within their communities should make it possible to bring people together to promote community well-being, to promote trust and, more importantly, provide a sense of personal belonging.”
It is hoped that if the project proves successful it could roll-out to other neighbouring wards in Littlehampton.
In parallel with this scheme, there will also be a trial of junior neighbourhood watch programmes set to launch at schools in the Arun district.
Such initiatives have already been introduced into Crawley and other parts of northern Sussex to great effect, with Littlehampton’s own version launching by December.
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