A badminton and squash club blighted by an intimidating gang of teenagers has said enough is enough after a fire was started.
For six months, teenagers believed to be smoking drugs and drinking alcohol outside the Littlehampton Badminton and Squash Club in Sparks Court have made life misery for staff and members, scrawling expletive-ridden graffiti and swastikas on the walls.
The final straw came on Sunday, March 18, when they started a fire by burning plastic crates in the sheltered area by the entrance, causing extensive smoke damage.
Club administrator Annette Humphrey said they were a ‘pack of animals’ that made her barmaid resign due to stress and left an 80-year-old member too scared to leave. She recalled threatening to call the police before one of the teens said ‘they won’t do nothing love’. The 55-year-old grandmother, a former youth worker in Lambeth, said police told her they knew the teenagers’ identities.
She said: “My life is a misery – when I come into work on a Monday I don’t know what’s going to be around the corner. And police saying they know who they are is like slapping me around the face with a wet fish.”
Arun District Councillor Colin Cates, speaking as a resident, said they were subject to a ‘DIY policing model’ and feared there could be vigilante justice if more officers were not visible in our town. He said: “The policing model is totally inadequate and doesn’t meet the community’s needs. We are allowing lunatics to take over the asylum.”
Club chairman and secretary David Beatty, from Middleton-on-Sea, and Derek Fish, from Felpham, said they would be spending £6,000 – more than 10 per cent of their annual turnover – on aluminium doors and an alarm system to keep the vandals out. Mr Fish also wrote to Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne urging for ‘immediate action’ to be taken against teenage gangs in the town in light of the club’s troubles.
A Sussex Police spokeswoman told the Gazette: “Police are aware of problems with youths at the Badminton and Squash Club in Littlehampton.
“Officers are continuing to investigate.”
This comes after two teens were stabbed and a third injured in broad daylight in Littlehampton High Street last week, and a string of other vandalism-related incidents, including boats being damaged in Littlehampton Harbour.
Sussex Police said it was working closer than ever with Arun District Council and British Transport Police to target anti-social behaviour. Click here to read more.