Police have hit back at claims they are ignoring drug dealing and low-level crime in Littlehampton.
The issue was raised at a meeting of West Sussex County Council’s health & adult social care select committee, in Chichester last Wednesday (June 12).
Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) told the meeting: “You can walk around Littlehampton and smell the drugs, and you can actually see the dealing going on, in the open air, in daylight, and police and business wardens walking past on the other side of the street saying ‘I can’t do anything about it’.
“That is unacceptable. The problem is getting worse.”
Chief Inspector Kris Ottery, district commander for Arun and Chichester, said that, far from being over-looked, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour were the ‘top priority’ for the district, ‘with a particular focus in the town centres’.
Mr Ottery added: “Officers are deployed on foot on every shift where possible to engage with residents and businesses to deal with it. We will deal with drug-related crime where they see it and arrests are regularly made.
“There have been a number operations with county lines drug dealing in the area, with us seizing a large amount of drugs and money and with 50 arrests in connection with the county lines network in the last six months.”
County lines is a term used to describe drug networks spreading from urban areas such as London to more rural communities, often exploiting children or vulnerable people to supply the drugs.
Pat Arculus (Con, Pulborough) said county lines was spreading into parts of West Sussex ‘you wouldn’t expect’.
Mrs Arculus also questioned the level of effort put into catching shoplifters, especially following reports that police did not investigate low-value thefts.
While recognising that some people resorted to theft because they simply could not afford to live, she added: “If we’re ignoring low-level crime, either with not supporting or not convicting it, we’re leaving ourselves open for it to escalate.
“This has been proved over the world.
“Everyone admires what happened in New York. New York was one of the most dangerous places you could go in the 1970s and [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani, with the ‘no broken windows’ and tackling at low level, turned that into what’s now one of the safest cities to go to.
“This country, we’re headed in the opposite direction. We’re ignoring all low-level and only doing critical work. So why are we surprised things are getting worse?”
Mr Ottery said: “Both incidents of shoplifting and anti-social behaviour are reducing, but we are not complacent and urge people to report.
“We are working with Local Action Teams, partners and businesses, to address local issues together.”