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As Police & Council respond to Crawley crime spree, why are people still not happy?

Earlier this week we broke the news of the desperation from businesses and staff in Crawley town centre as crime levels were seeing thousands of pounds disappearing and threatening to close stores.

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Following our report the police, council and one of the major high street stores have responded but whilst it is supposed to be reassuring words from all, in-fact to those being affected it is still coming across as just words and not actions.

Read the original report here.

One of the areas covered was the huge amount of goods being stolen on an hourly basis from M&S. A store that only has security randomly through the week, yet crime is soaring every day and staff are feeling unable to act.

Responding to the report an M&S spokesperson said,

“We appreciate the community’s frustrations because, like all retailers, we do experience theft, but our teams are supported to minimise incidents whilst offering customers a great in-store experience.

We are also working closely with other retailers and community representatives, as part of the town partnership scheme, to address the issue and improve the high street.”

M&S were contacted following their response to ask when they may be adding more security into the store but said they had nothing more to add at this moment.

The police responded with Inspector Peter Dommett saying:

“Working with Crawley Business Watch, Crawley Borough Council and outreach partners, we have launched Crawley street community intensification days and these are already showing demonstrable results.

“We are putting out high-visibility uniformed officers to deal with the issues, creating a visual deterrent and offering reassurance to businesses, shoppers and other users of the town centre.

“On Monday (March 18), we arrested four people for separate multiple shoplifting offences and we are also targeting those who are selling on stolen goods. On Wednesday (March 20), our team was once more in action, targeting the top ten most prolific offenders, making three arrests for shoplifting, one who was wanted for shoplifting and one for begging. We also gave warnings to three other beggars who could find themselves in court if they come to our attention again.

“You can keep up with these activities through Sergeant Anthony Cheeseman’s regular updates on his Twitter account – @SussexSgtCC238.

“This activity, involving prevention team police officers and PCSOs, divisional response teams and devoted specialist support from our investigation team, has been made possible by the extra funding provided by the police and crime commissioner’s precept increase.

“Anyone who is arrested as part of this programme is offered help through community justice liaison nurses, including accommodation, but we find that a number of street sleepers are doing so as a lifestyle choice having shunned offers of support.

“Sussex Police and other partners, including the council and social services, meet once a month to discuss those who are living on the streets and look to use innovative ways to get them back into accommodation.

“Several more intensification days have already been programmed in by Chief Inspector Rosie Ross and I would encourage anyone to speak to use about any specific concerns they may have that we might be able to address.

However, the response from the police did little to appease one business owner who said:

“Fantastic news, well done, they should be proud but how does that help us? Look, we understand they are busy and not just sitting around. No-one is blaming them for the crimes and we are certainly not saying they don’t do good work but what they need to understand is that if this is all going on and they are taking all this action then why are we all still suffering and why do we feel they are not around enough? I have one elderly couple who have visited us for years but who now are too afraid to walk across the park. I’m serious. They feel too threatened.”

A shopper from Three Bridges who we approached and discussed the findings responded:

“Why doesn’t the town centre have its own security staff patrolling all the time?”

This all comes after one resident, Mr Benson, responding to our story had already messaged us saying:

“How come they (the police) frequently have enough resource to station a copper at the bottom of Southgate avenue to catch people out speeding but have no interest in crime that is affecting people’s livelyhoods and these criminals will only become more brazen and move on to bigger crimes if left unchecked.”

With so much heated passion about the state of affairs it is clear that more needs to be done publicly and visibly around town so perhaps the response from Crawley Borough Council may give some reassurance to business owners and shoppers:

“We are concerned and sympathetic towards the businesses regarding these issues and we are in discussions with Crawley Police, the Town Centre Partnership and Crawley and Gatwick Business Watch to establish the most effective way forward, part of this includes organising a training session with Crawley Police and other local partners to improve our use of ASB Legislation against those behaving anti-socially and committing crimes, such as theft.

“The £2.2 million Queensway, Pavement and Kingsgate regeneration scheme has already opened up the lines of sight into Memorial Gardens from Queensway and Kingsgate by removing the boundary hedges.  This is to allow for the gardens to be directly overlooked by the shops and street along Kingsgate in order to deter anti-social behaviour and crime.  The scheme also includes measures to address security and safety issues such as installing new CCTV. Our Community Wardens also continue to carry out daily patrols around the town centre.

“The Queens Square regeneration scheme has attracted over £30 million of investment due to a string of retailers and other businesses taking up premises in and around Queens Square, including Decathlon, Metrobank and Iceland.”

Crawley MP Henry Smith commenting on the situation said:

“There should be zero tolerance on crime in Crawley. Sussex Police funding for 2019/20 has been increase by 8.4 per cent; a rise of over £22 million. I welcome the Sussex Police Commissioner’s actions in recruiting 200 new officers, many for Crawley. We now need to see greater deployment on our streets and town centre.”

Whilst it is clear that everyone is taking the situation very seriously it is also very evident that with all good intentions there needs to be substance or the very shops that are suffering will eventually put a stop to it themselves.

Business

Did Crawley Council Leader really tell worried business owners ‘we’ll let the court decide’ over rent hikes?

It has become one of the hot topics of the year, the 30% rent increase for businesses on Tilgate Parade. But has an open letter from a councillor revealed more than just a heated debate.

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Take a walk through any part of Crawley where there are shops. How many of them are the same ones that were there just a few years ago?

In-fact if you walk through the town centre then you are almost going on a walk of memory as you pass empty units or one of the too-many-to-count coffee shops.

Parades so far have faired a little better with most retaining their stores but for how much longer?

Rules set out that rents for businesses must be set at a certain percentage of the value of the property, we will gloss over the fact that councils do have options in which they can reduce this as this has been spoken about at length before.

So a 30% rent hike, whilst shocking, is not surprising as prices increase over the years.

Tilgate Parade where rents are to increase by 30%.

But now an open letter by Tilgate Councillor Francis Guidera has potentially revealed just how much tension there really is between the business owners and the council.

In the letter (which you can read here) Mr Guidera talks about a discussion held after a recent Full Council meeting where eight Tilgate Parade business owners were ‘confronted’ by the Council Leader.

According to Mr Guidera’s letter, Council Leader Peter Lamb ‘demanded’ to know why the council should ‘subsidise’ profit making businesses.

Now heated words between disgruntled residents, business owners and opposing councillors are nothing new but according to Mr Guidera the parting words from the Council Leader appear to show that tensions are at breaking point.

“We’ll let the court decide” – these are the final words, according to Mr Guidera, that Peter Lamb used to the Crawley business owners as the conversation/debate/argument (use what you will because it is not clear what it was) came to a conclusion.

The whole country is on a political see-saw with every party taking any opportunity it can to score points from the other so letters like this can be seen to be just that, another point scoring opportunity – BUT – ‘if’ what Mr Guidera saying is right then it does beg the question of whether the council is really understanding the true concerns of the very people it represents.

CN24 approached Mr Lamb for comment but at time of publishing had not received a response.

There are rules, regulations, legislation to follow but there are also opportunities open to councils to make a difference and to help those it works hard to convince it wants to help. So why such defiance?

The see-saw has dropped on one side now, let’s see what comes out to make it tip the other way?

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