Burglaries, car crime and anti-social behaviour have all reduced in Uckfield over the past year, residents were told at a public meeting in town last night.
Now police are focussing their attention on drug dealing and parking issues.
Police Community Support Officer Sue Topping said crime had fallen by 6.6%. There were 160 fewer burglaries, 150 fewer reports of car crime and 300 fewer anti-social behaviour type incidents.
She was speaking at a meeting held at Uckfield Civic Centre which was organised by the police and the town council but attended by fewer than 30 people.
She told how she was brought into the town after it was seen to have a “problem profile”.
Police numbers had been cut and “kids had got used to not seeing police around”.
Sue’s role was to come in, meet people, listen to what they had to say. She looked at the figures, met offenders and their parents and worked at “putting the problem back into the box”.
Her aim wasn’t to criminalise youngsters, rather to put them back on a better route.
She said lots of parents got on board to help resolve the problems. Some would ring up to say their child was supposed to be with them and wasn’t, and it helped to have them on side.
She added: “A couple of youngsters were criminalised but hopefully they will come out the other side having learned lessons.”
Sue said she was still being told that youths were feral, unruly, like terrorists running around with everyone in fear of their life, but in the real world it wasn’t like that.
Middle of the night
“I ask those people whether they have been into town at night and they say no, they have just heard about it. They say ‘We have never seen you’, and I say no, that’s because you are not in town in the middle of the night when we are.”
Sue was also holding regular meetings with town clerk Holly Goring, business people and others involved with different organisations in the town looking at ways of preventing problems in the future.
One thing being worked on was the re-opening of a youth club giving young teenagers a place to go in the evening.
The problem of drug use was raised by residents. Town councillor Paul Meakin said the number of ‘wraps’ he saw was horrendous and it was obvious where drug dealers and their cars were.
A woman said ‘wraps’ were being picked up by four and five-year-old children. She even produced one at the meeting to show police.
Another man said it was known that a drug dealer was getting off a train in the evenings at 7pm, handing over a package in Waitrose car park and then getting back on a train heading towards London.
Sue Topping asked for more information about this and said it was crucial that people reported any concerns to police and didn’t assume others were letting them know.
She said that if the police weren’t told they couldn’t investigate, and it was the case that the more complaints they had about any one issue the more likely it was to be considered a priority.
She said police were looking at the drug issue. Before Christmas they were told about one particular vehicle coming and going regularly. It was stopped and ‘a vast amount of drugs’ were seized. The driver was now serving time in prison.
Plain clothes officers had stopped a couple of lads known to be dealing in town and “they were shown the error of their ways”.
Sue said concern was raised about a man hanging around Princes Close near the West Park Nature Reserve. She spoke to him and while he didn’t have any drugs with him at the time she suspected he had earlier.
She told him police were aware of drug dealing going on there and they were coming to the area regularly – he had never been seen there since.
Sue told the meeting police were aware of a drug issue in town and they were dealing with it.
Sue was also told at the meeting about problems with people leaving a night club in the early hours of the morning and disturbing residents on Manor Park.
“They are drunk, urinating and vomiting everywhere. They are bringing the town down and this is happening most weekends,” she was told.
Sue said this could be investigated and a licensing issue could be involved.
Praise for town clerk
There was praise for town clerk Holly Goring who was helping residents raise issues with the police.
There was criticism of the 101 number which people were encouraged to call when they had concerns. People were ringing it, holding on, being cut off and having to call over and over again without success.
Sue said police were aware the system wasn’t working properly. There were fewer call handlers than there used to be. She stressed that for any urgent issue people should call 999.