A group of authorities have moved to reassure town centre traders amid concerns over an increase in anti-social behaviour.
Worthing Borough Council, Sussex Police and the Town Centre Initiative have delivered a joint letter to all centre businesses, outlining efforts to engage the street community and tackle anti-social behaviour following a spate of negative publicity.
The letter said: “We all know town centres are changing and these are challenging times for all businesses. However, the council completely shares the view of our business community that retail remains a vital part of our town centre offering.
“We also have a joint goal of continuing to attract people into the town centre, and ensuring that we have safe and pleasant spaces for people to enjoy.”
It pointed to the council’s rough sleeper and outreach teams working hard to get rough sleepers access to services and into housing, and mentioned the encampment outside Laura Ashley in the Montague Quarter had been removed after a successful intervention.
Section 41 notices which allow the removal of belongings left in Montague Street have also been served and efforts are being made to improve intelligence gathering among traders, the council and police.
Measures are also being taken to make empty properties harder to access, but the letter reminded traders that those sleeping rough remain vulnerable and it was vital that services engage with them as early as possible.
It asked traders to report any anti-social behaviour to police and advised those wishing to support rough sleepers to offer a hot drink or donate to charity rather than giving money to the individual.
Despite the issues, the letter said the problems are national and Worthing was no better or worse than other areas of the country.
Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell, Sussex Police District Commander, said: “The individuals involved in antisocial behaviour are the minority and we know who they are. Rest assured they are dealt with robustly when we are aware of crimes being committed and this is demonstrated by the arrests that we have made recently in relation to specific incidents. We are determined to not let a small number of people disrupt others enjoyment of our town.
“However the street community are some of the most vulnerable in our town and the recent negative comments on social media platforms and local media have increased resulted in them being targeted and becoming victims of crime. We are urging anyone who witnesses any physical or verbal abuse, either in public or online, to any member of the community to report it to us without delay.”