Bognor Regis is becoming ‘terrifying at night’ one councillor claimed during a discussion about the rise of anti-social behaviour in Arun’s two major towns.
The topic was raised this week by James Walsh (Lib Dem, Beach) who described how car screens and wing mirrors were being smashed, while open drug dealing was 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.”
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.
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.”
Elaine Stainton (Con, Felpham West) described having ‘deep concerns’ about what was happening in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and was really worried about young children.
She said: “Something has to be done. We need more police in Bognor Regis town centre and Littlehampton. There’s drug dealing and begging going on.”
Cllr Stainton said she liked to go shopping in Bognor but would be ‘terrified’ to go out at night.
She added: “It really is a desperate situation.”
Mike Clayden, 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 Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner Katy 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, 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.