The Government is targeting Eastbourne as a potential risk area for gang violence after a national report found organised drug dealers are expanding to coastal towns.
The report by the National Crime Agency (NCA) found criminal gangs from London and other large cities have been expanding their drugs trade to coastal towns like Eastbourne and Hastings.
The agency fears these expansions – known as ‘county lines’ – will lead to a significant increase in violent crime as well as the exploitation of children and young people.
In the report an agency spokesman says, “It would appear that groups target two types of areas, either small coastal towns that suffer from issues relating to deprivation and unemployment or in contrast more affluent areas with decent transport links to London.”
The report, which was first released in August, also highlights the risk the gangs pose to vulnerable people. The report says, “Many gangs form a secure base in the homes of vulnerable people and force assistance by using violence or exploiting an addiction to drugs.
“Similarly, the exploitation of young people is a common factor, with groups often recruiting children to work as runners.”
On Wednesday (January 13) Home Office minister Karen Bradley announced the Government would be focusing its efforts to disrupt these gangs in nine UK towns and cities, including Hastings and Eastbourne.
Southampton in Hampshire and Medway in Kent are also being targeted by the Government policy.
Mrs Bradley, who is the minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said, “Gang and youth violence has a devastating impact on young people, their families and local communities.
“That’s why today we are providing more targeted support, which will allow local police and authorities to identify how best to address local challenges and identify the right measures to tackle gang-related violence and exploitation.
“Our new policy; Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation, sets out the Government’s six key priorities to deal with what drives violence and abuse by gangs and shows the Government’s continued determination to tackle this problem. We want to work in towns across England to make this a success.”
Despite the Governments’ concerns, Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell said she is surprised that a low crime area like Eastbourne has been identified as a risk.
Mrs Ansell said, “I am very surprised that Eastbourne has been put into this initiative which, in my view, gives a totally wrong impression of a town that is a very safe place to live and work and is overwhelmingly populated by generous and law-abiding people of all ages.
“The announcement is even more puzzling because, since I have been the MP, I have met regularly with Eastbourne’s district police commander and she has never mentioned to me any problem with gang violence or knife crime.
“I have spoken to the district commander this morning who told me that she had not applied for this money. So I am frankly scratching my head as to why Eastbourne has been included. I fear it may be because Hastings is also on the list and the two towns have been arbitrarily put together.
“I will be speaking to the minister responsible as a matter of urgency to find out more of the reasoning behind this decision, and I will be making my feelings known that I don’t agree with Eastbourne being on the list.
“Eastbourne is overall a safe town. It has its problems like every other town, and it has had isolated incidents of violent crime, like many other towns, but I don’t recognise the picture that is being painted today of a place that has such a problem with gangs and knife crime that additional Government money is needed to tackle it.”
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