A report from ITV News Meridian's James Dunham about the ongoing violence and disorder surrounding a town in Sussex
Fears "somebody will die" are mounting as businesses and residents claim there may be a fatality if the ongoing violent disorder is not curbed.
Bar staff have to wear stab vests as a precaution, late-night hospitality workers take taxis home to avoid walking the streets, and dog owners avoid evening strolls after what some locals see as an increased number of indiscriminate attacks in Horsham over the last nine months.
Video shared with ITV News shows one outburst last September with a group of young men, some undoubtedly young men, brandishing building materials in a frightening and threatening outburst against members of the public.
Sussex Police, and other authorities, are reassuring the public that Horsham is still a safe place with efforts being made to tackle the offences.
One man, who we've called Andy, was assaulted and needed hospital treatment following an assault after he left a venue.
While he has no memory of the immediate moments before and after the attack, Andy said: "I lived in London for five, six, seven years, something like that and never had anything like this happen to me.
"Horsham is a place I moved to because it was regarded as safe.
"The police, and I know it's not their fault, don't have the resources, but the police presence is only there when the offence has taken place in the mop-up rather than in prevention."
In Horsham town centre, the latest yearly data shows around 500 violent and anti-social crime reports were received by police, compared to around 600 in Crawley town centre.
Chris Malden owns Prestige Security Ltd and explains the extent of feeling within the town centre
Chris Malden runs Prestige Security Ltd with his teams of door staff dealing with violent offences.
He says the nature of what's happening is extremely alarming particularly as there is a sense of violent crime increasing.
Mr Malden said: "We've seen over the course of the last nine months these problems persist and get worse, which is causing a lot of fear around the town, especially venue owners and customers and people at work.
"We've had stabbings in Horsham. Fortunately, no one has died yet. I fear that's going to happen and I fear it would be one of my team.
"Potentially, because my team are out there dealing with this. Do I fear it's going to be a venue owner, a manager or a member of staff that works in these venues?
"Absolutely, because they're the ones dealing with this drama every weekend. It sounds dramatic, but it's not. It's a realisation of what could happen.
"This isn't to discredit the officers on the ground. They do a sterling job.
"We work very closely with the local police but they just don't have the resources or the backing that they need.
"And that needs to change. They need the resources to be able to do their job effectively."
Dispersal orders have been put in place on Friday and Saturday nights meaning groups of people are not allowed to gather.
Chief Inspector Sarah Leadbetter, Horsham District Commander wants to reassure the public
Sussex Police's District Commander for Horsham, Chief Inspector Sarah Leadbetter, tells ITV News the force has not lost control of the town.
Ms Leadbetter said: "We haven't lost control of Horsham at all. Where we need to we will absolutely move our resources around to the areas where there is a requirement.
"Certainly for the next few weekends moving forward, we will continue to have a high visibility police presence within the town.
"What we're looking to do is make sure that we've actually got some robust disruption tactics that we can use for these individuals to curb their behaviour.
"We're not wanting to put a sticking plaster over this. We're wanting to actually solve the problem where there are offences being committed.
"We will make arrests and we will put these people through the criminal justice process as well."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Our absolute priority is cutting crime and making our streets safer, and we are providing police forces with the resources they need to do this.
"We continue to support the police, including record investment and the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers by March 2023, including 302 already recruited to Sussex Police.
"Sussex Police will also receive funding of up to £361.4 million in 2023/24, an increase of up £14.8million compared to the previous year, while a unit dedicated to tackling the root causes of violence has been allocated c.£4m since 2019."
There have also been three arrests over three separate offences in the last fortnight.
On Saturday 21 January a 39-year-old man of no fixed address was arrested for possession of a knife in Bishopric Road and a racially aggravated assault at The Lynd Cross. He has been bailed for these offences.
On 14 January when two men and two women reported being assaulted by a number of youths in Middle Street. This led to a 16-year-old boy from Crawley being detained for a search; no weapons were found on his person and enquiries continue.
On 22 December, a 15-year-old was robbed of his designer jacket in Horsham Park. The following day, we arrested a 17-year-old boy from Billingshurst in connection with the offence; he has been bailed and the investigation is ongoing.
A Horsham District Council spokesperson said: “The Council is working in close collaboration with Sussex Police, members of the community and local hospitality businesses regarding the recent issues of anti-social behaviour in Horsham Town Centre.
“We are working hard to ensure that the Horsham District including Horsham Town Centre remains one of the safest places to live and continues to have some of the lowest rates of crime in West Sussex.
“We would encourage residents, businesses and visitors to report any behaviour they believe to be inappropriate or suspicious to Sussex Police by going to https://www.sussex.police.uk/reportcrime, or calling 101, or in an emergency calling 999.”
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