Reports of anti-social behaviour in St Leonards are decreasing but much more work needs to be done, according to Sussex Police and Hastings Borough Council.
At a meeting on Friday night (September 14), borough councillors joined Chief Inspector Steve Curry, district commander for Hastings and Rye; Katy Bourne, police and crime commissioner for Sussex; Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council; and Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings, to inform residents of the steps taken to reduce anti-social behaviour in the town.
Chief Inspector Curry – who retires from Sussex Police on Wednesday – acknowledged the latest Office for National Statistics figures for reported crime when he said incidents of anti-social behaviour in St Leonards had reduced by 98 from 2016 to 2017.
Those figures also found Hastings had dropped below Crawley for the highest rate of reported crime in Sussex – the first time in four years Hastings had not recorded the highest rate.
Despite the improving figures in Hastings as a whole, Chief Inspector Curry said Sussex Police faced a number of challenges in St Leonards.
He said: “The threat from county lines – where drug gangs force young people to deal on the streets – is extremely apparent in Hastings. There are 30 groups in operation in East Sussex with most in Hastings.
“It is not just youngsters who are victimised here though. Somebody my age was cuckooed by these individuals.
“There is also a very real threat from organised crime groups who are involved in modern day slavery and the supply of class A drugs and class B cannabis.
“Incidents of anti-social behaviour in St Leonards are lower now than in 2016 but local concerns show there are still issues and no room for complacency.”
The meeting heard from a number of residents and business owners who have been on the receiving end of anti-social behaviour in the town.
One question came from an employee at M&W Property Sales in London Road, St Leonards, who asked whether he should bother replacing the windows to his shop after they were smashed once again.
He put the blame with street drinkers who he said were able to get their hands on cheap alcohol in London Road and had been pushed to the area due to the alcohol free zones – known as public space protection orders (PSPOs) – enforced by the council in areas of Hastings.
Mike Hepworth, assistant director for environment and place at Hastings Borough Council, said the PSPOs were brought in to ‘protect residents and to slow the rate of anti-social behaviour’.
He said: “Since the orders were introduced, the wardens have been challenging the street drinkers in the prohibited areas. It is working because they are getting fed up with us and there have been several occasions where threats have been made to members of staff.”
Mr Hepworth said the Hastings Borough Council and Eastbourne Borough Council’s housing authorities were given £600,000 from the government in year one of a scheme to get more people housed.
He said, if both councils make a success of the scheme, there is a possibility of funding being increased to around £800,000.
After the meeting, Amber Rudd MP said it was ‘positive’ to hear from residents and another meeting would be called ‘when the residents want one’.