A UNIFIED approach to tackling Littlehampton’s problem with street drinkers is having a ‘significantly positive’ effect on the town, police and traders have claimed.
Last year the Gazette reported how the town centre had been under siege from anti-social drunks roaming the streets night and day.
At the time, traders were worried about the impact the drunkards were having on business, with many Littlehampton locals concerned about going into the town for fear of being verbally abused, business leaders said.
However, fast forward almost 12 months and the scene in the town has been dramatically changed.
Traders have united with Sussex Police, Arun District Council, Littlehampton Town Council and homeless charity Stonepillow to work out an action plan – one which is having a major impact on the town’s issues with street drinkers.
Andrew Sleeman has been running Spokes Cycles, in Beach Road, for about 26 years and was the first to speak publicly about his worries. However, talking to the Gazette this week, Mr Sleeman said: “Things honestly are a lot better. There’s been a massive change.
“...A lot of people will have read that front page story and thought, ‘Oh my God I’m not going to Littlehampton’. But now that really has changed.”Inspector Marc Clothier, Sussex Police
“I think this is because we have all come together – Arun, the town council, Stonepillow and the police – not to eradicate the problem but to communicate in a more effective way.
“I felt that for so long we had groups that were doing the best they could but just weren’t really talking to one another. We were all trying little bits and probably arguing with each other but now we’ve all just come together and it’s really working.”
Inspector Marc Clothier agreed and said the improved lines of communication between traders, councils and the force had really helped police in targeting specific areas of the town more effectively than ever before.
“We portrayed a picture that was quite bad last year,” admitted Insp Clothier, “and it was bad because it affected a number of people.
“But a lot of people will have read that front page story and thought, ‘Oh my God I’m not going to Littlehampton’. But now that really has changed.
“We have worked incredibly hard over the past few months.”
Plans have seen off-licences stop selling individual cans of super-strength booze, which was the drink of choice for the town’s street community.
“They now sell it in four-packs which is much better,” said Mr Sleeman.
The pair admitted there was still a lot more work to do in the coming months and conceded there was no way to completely rid the town of all its street drinking issues.
Insp Clothier added it was more important for the police force, than ever before, to make the best possible use of their limited resources across the district.
In order to do this, Insp Clothier explained police would make more use of action groups like the one in Littlehampton.
The intelligence they provide the force, he said, would help give police a better picture on where to send officers on any given day.
Insp Clothier said frontline charities like Stonepillow – which has a facility in Harwood Road – would also continue to play an ‘absolutely critical’ role in this success.
He explained: “We want to be more proactive. There’s still a need for enforcement and we will work robustly but we need people to come to us.
“We need to build those relationships and links where people feel confident that we will act on intelligence.”
Insp Clothier added: “I think Sussex Police is guilty of not shouting about the good things we do. This community link in Littlehampton really is one of them.”
Mr Sleeman is appealing for the public, who may be having problems with anti-social drinkers, to contact him by heading into his shop, calling 01903 732060 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org