The leader of Crawley Borough Council has told Sussex Police to ‘get a grip on the wave of drugs and violence affecting Crawley’.
Labour’s Peter Lamb took to social media the day after a 24-year-old man was stabbed in The Boulevard, and a couple of weeks after a manslaughter investigation was launched into the death of a pensioner who had been attacked in the same road.
He said: “People need to know they will be kept safe. Excuses have worn thin.”
When Sussex Police responded, outlining work being carried out with the National Crime Agency to combat organised crime, Mr Lamb said more officers were needed if any ‘real headway’ was to be made.
He added: “We’ve highlighted to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for years how that could be afforded within existing spending constraints.
“We’re living with the consequences of that failure now.”
When asked about Mr Lamb’s comments, Sussex PCC Katy Bourne said: “It will be disappointing for those police officers already in Crawley and the new recruits who will be posted there to hear that Cllr Lamb has no confidence in them.”
She also pointed out that, in January, the borough council’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the performance of the PCC, had voted against increasing the amount of money given to police through the council tax precept.
Mrs Bourne said Mr Lamb had failed to acknowledge the changing nature and complexity of many crimes, such as cyber crime.
And she took a dig at the financial challenges faced by local authorities which she said often led to more demands being placed on police.
Chief Inspector Rosie Ross said ‘proactive and robust’ action was being taken to tackle serious violence in the town, including an increase in patrols in crime hotspots.
She added: “The violence is obviously distressing but I can assure local people that we are doing all we can, taking targeted action to help keep them safe.
“Criminality that puts people’s lives at risk is never acceptable and it’s vital that the community pulls together to help us deal with those responsible.
“I understand that residents will be concerned by violence taking place in the town but I want to reassure everyone that their safety is our priority.
“We are committed to targeting people supplying class A drugs in this area, making sure they are held to account for their actions, and reducing the significant community harm which is caused.
“We will continue our partnership work with Crawley Borough Council, community wardens, community safety teams and local MPs to disrupt them.”
Sussex Police said 13 warrants relating to drugs had been executed in July with the ‘vast majority of these yielding success’.
Some 33 arrests were made in the same month for drug related offences, while 45 stop searches were carried out on cars which police believed to be linked to drugs.
Chief inspector Ross highlighted one successful prosecution, which saw East Grinstead man Daniel Lindsey, 35, given a 40-month prison sentence after he was found in the possession of £16,000 worth of cocaine.
She added: “We have listened to the concerns of the community around issues with drugs and violence in Crawley and have put a number of resources in place as a deterrent.
“Last month we also dedicated an extra 180 hours of high visibility patrols to hotspot areas and this is on top of the regular patrols that are conducted.
“These patrols are in place to identify those involved with these crimes and arrest when possible.”
Chief inspector Ross called on the public to report any criminal activity to police.
She added: “Let’s work together to make Crawley a safe place.
“No one knows their neighbourhoods better than residents themselves, so please get in touch if something seems suspicious or out of place.
“If you see a crime happening please dial 999 or if you have any information which could help us with our investigation, please go online, call 101 or report through Crimestoppers.”