Tackling drug dealing and organised crime is at the ‘top of the list’ of priorities for Horsham’s police chief.
District Commander for Worthing, Adur and Horsham, Miles Ockwell told Billingshurst residents the parish was ‘not immune’ to an increase in county line drug dealing and gangs targeting young people.
His explanation came at an annual electors’ meeting last week to answer questions on the new Local Policing Model for Sussex.
Chief Inspector Ockwell said: “The key issue we have in the local area is the level of engagement these gangs and these organised criminals try to have and are having with young people in particular.
“I had a meeting about four weeks ago with headteachers from all of the local secondary schools, including the Weald, and there is a real concern.
“It is a real challenge for us as the police, but on a multi-agency basis, to make sure that particularly those young people that are on the edge of this criminality or potentially could have gone into it, that we put things in place that will prevent that.
“What the detail of that is at the moment I’m not sure and that’s what we’ll be working with our Community Safety Partnership on but county line drug dealing is on the top of my list for Horsham district and Billingshurst.”
He said Billingshurst was also in his ‘field of vision’ for issues with anti-social behaviour.
This was a cause of ‘continued concern’, although reports had marginally decreased over the last two years.
A resident at the meeting, who said she worked at the Weald School, challenged Chief Inspector Ockwell on why school liaison officers were spending less time in schools and whether this was a contributing factor.
She said she didn’t feel comfortable dealing with young people she had witnessed taking drugs in the village, such as at the shelter in Station Road gardens.
She said if there was somebody walking around in that area, it could help put people off.
Chief Inspector Ockwell said the liaison officers were now focussing on work in the community, as well as in schools, and he was encouraging his officers to spend more time out and about in their patches.
He said the village’s new neighbourhood wardens could help police in acting as ‘permanent eyes and ears’.