Police are committed to patrolling the streets and tackling anti-social behaviour – but have to focus their resources on fighting the biggest threats to our communities, councillors were told on Thursday.
Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell, district police commander in Adur and Worthing, told councillors at a meeting that police received more reports of domestic abuse than of criminal damage and that a sexual offence was reported every day.
He and Inspector Allan Lowe answered questions from the joint overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (February, 15).
Inspector Ockwell told councillors: “The challenge is to generate the understanding among the public over where the real threat risk and harm in their communities actually lies.
“One sexual offence is reported every single day across Adur and Worthing – where someone is raped or sexually abused.
“We get more reports of domestic abuse than we do over criminal damage.
“For us, we have to prioritise where we put our resources to where the most harm is.
“Of course I’m going to prioritise people being abused in their own homes or children being raped.
“I do have to make those difficult decisions.
“I know the public will want us to do everything – and they have a right to feel that to be honest, they pay their taxes.
“But it’s a balancing act – how much can we do with what we’ve got.”
Councillors raised concerns about police visibility and the handling of minor crimes
Councillor Steve Waight said police presence in Goring had ‘effectively disappeared’.
“We have no visible police at all,” he said. “So when we have low level crime, people aren’t reporting it anymore.”
Explaining the new policing model, chief inspector Ockwell said: “We don’t have a dedicated officer for a dedicated beat as such.
“We will focus on the area that we consider to be the most in need.
“Some areas will have multiple officers and other will have none.”
While he acknowledged that ‘a lot of people are concerned about a lack of visible policing’, he said: “I’m really passionate about the value of officers patrolling on foot in the streets.”
He said that over the last six months, 25.5 per cent of stop and searches in Adur and Worthing had resulted in arrests – higher than the average of 21 per cent across Sussex.
“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “Hopefully there is a link to the fact that I encourage my officers to get out their cars and go out and walk.”
He revealed that Sussex Police would be launching a new operation next month – Operation Minster – which would focus on increasing the visibility of officers by patrolling areas.
Councillor Carol Albury asked how police were dealing with ‘mindless crime’ in Lancing in areas such as Beach Green.
She said there was and a ‘rising tide of young persons getting away with this behaviour’, which she said was becoming ‘an everyday occurrence’.
Inspector Ockwell said he had visited Monks Recreation Ground in Lancing in the summer and said: “There was quite a sad situation whereby there was conflict between young people and older people in Lancing.”
He said he was ‘absolutely committed’ to working closely with the community in Lancing and assured that reported issues were dealt with, but added: “We can’t have a conversation about this type of thing without looking at the reductions of other services.”
Inspector Lowe added: “I know there has been some antisocial behaviour.
“There are a small minority in the local area – most young people in the local area are full and active members of the local community.”
He encouraged residents to always report crimes.
“We need to know where the issues are so I can deploy my officers to where the problems are,” he said.