Traders in Worthing town centre want a more ‘robust’ approach to antisocial behaviour, according to the town centre manager.
Sharon Clarke said retailers around the Guildbourne Centre were concerned about the number of people congregating and incidents in the area.
Mrs Clarke said the area was often highlighted as one of the town’s ‘problem hotspots’ and that issues had been raised with the police and the Community Safety Team at Worthing Borough Council.
“Businesses are keen that those needing help are supported and they recognise the work Turning Tides and the council do to help those in need,” she said.
“However, businesses feel the few that are offered support and choose not to take it need to be more robustly dealt with when causing issues and making the public and businesses feel unsafe in town.”
Mrs Clarke said a dispersal order put in place by police during late February and into March had been effective, with alcohol seized and groups moved on. However, the issues returned when the focus stopped, she said.
The Town Centre Initiative has asked businesses to report any issues to police, she said, so they have evidence to put more dispersal orders in place.
In a statement last week, Adur, Worthing and Horsham district police commander Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell said officers work in partnership with others to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.
He said: “I am proud of the partnership approach we take in relation to this in Worthing, and it is important to state that reports of antisocial behaviour in the town centre for the first three weeks of April for this year and last year are 27 per cent lower than for the same period for 2016 and 2017 collectively, so we are having an impact.”
Ch Insp Ockwell said police regularly reviewed crime trends, considered local concerns and would make full use of powers available like dispersal orders to deal with issues.
Paul O’Brien, of I Love Candy, in Bath Place, said there were plenty of positives to shout about in the town, including new ventures like MasterChef champion Kenny Tutt’s new restaurant, and regeneration plans.
But he said a minority were giving the town a bad name – and he called on the authorities to use all powers available, including using dispersal orders more often.
Reacting to police comments, he said: “It’s quite hard to think back a year ago but I would say nothing has really changed.
“I don’t think people are reporting it any more. 101 is a pointless system as you are sat on the phone waiting for 45 minutes.
“I will email police when I can but as a sole trader you haven’t got the time to ping off ten emails a day.”
Commenting on the Herald’s Facebook page, Linda Titch Birch commented that groups gathering in the square were driving people away from the town centre.
Debra Coleman called for a permanent ban on street drinking in the area – a stance echoed by many other commenters.