Almost 600 residents have signed a petition calling for CCTV to be installed at Homefield Park in Worthing.
The petition was started by resident Jay Olliver, who said he was fed up with witnessing ‘constant’ drug dealing and drug taking at the park, as well as anti-social behaviour.
It also comes after three boys were assaulted at the park and, in a separate incident, an 11-year-old was assaulted.
Jay, who lives right next to the park with his wife and regularly walks his dog there, said: “I don’t want to see another 11-year-old beaten up.
“I decided that the best thing to do was not to sit here and complain, but to come up with a solution.”
The 35-year-old, who is used to finding solutions thanks to his job as a continuous improvement executive, believes installing one or two cameras in the park with a view of skate park would make a difference.
He said: “The police are doing the best they can but they are underfunded and understaffed.
“They’re not able to sit in the park 24/7.
“Having the police increase patrols, that’s a temporary fix. We need a long term solution.
“An ‘eye in the sky’ would be a massive deterrent.”
He said drugs were a big problem at the park, adding: “It’s not just kids smoking weed – there’s people in there using heroin. We’ve seen it firsthand ourselves.”
‘Large aggressive groups’ of young people were also creating problems by ‘intimidating’ people, he said – though he added that it was important to differentiate between trouble-makers and youths using the park recreationally.
Jay said he was ‘really shocked’ by the huge reaction to the petition so far.
“I didn’t know how many people would get behind it,” he said.
The petition is addressed to Worthing Borough Council and Jay has also been in touch with the MP Peter Bottomley over the issue.
The council has been approached for a comment about the petition, which can be viewed here.
What are the authorities doing to tackle anti-social behaviour at the park?
The Herald contacted Sussex Police to find out what was actions were being taken following the recent assaults at the park.
Prevention Inspector Allan Lowe said: “We are working closely with the local council and other agencies to make the park the safe and enjoyable amenity it should be.
“We are also urging the community to work with us and our partners by reporting any similar incidents without delay.
“The sooner we know about such incidents, the sooner we can intervene.”
“If a crime is taking place or thought to be imminent, people should telephone 999 and ask for police.
“Other information can be reported online at https://www.sussex.police.uk/contact/af/contact-us/ or by phoning 101.
Councillor Sally Smith, one of the three councillors who represents central ward, said there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
She said: “We do everything that we can within our scope to keep the community safe – to work with the police, to work with our officers within the council.”
Councillors passed on concerns from residents to the police and encouraged residents to report incidents to police, she said.
They also encouraged people to come along to the monthly police panel meetings in the ward to share their concerns with officers.
Ms Smith said that the police were ‘hugely stretched’ but were making safeguarding their ‘top priority’.
“Problems in open spaces are a national issue and we know that county lines dealing is endemic around the country,” she said.
“County lines is a very big issue in Worthing, and the recruitment of vulnerable young people. We know the trademark of county lines is violence.
“Which isn’t to say that every incident is to do with county lines.
“But we are mindful that this is a nationwide problem.
“It is tempting for people living in poverty and suffering from the effects of austerity to be recruited.
“It’s a big issue for the police.
“We do everything we can to be supportive.”
She added that it was important to highlight the positive things that were also going on in open spaces in the town.
“We also attend the really positive events and support some of the fantastic initiatives that are going on,” she said, pointing to the Worthing Ping project which saw table tennis equipment pop up in open spaces in the town over the summer.
“The more activities, the more it helps to keep people busy and out of trouble,” she said.