PEOPLE in a seaside town plagued by juvenile delinquency are ‘powerless’ to stop children from a wave of shoplifting and violence.
Annie Willson, wife of Alan Willson, who was nearly killed in Worthing’s Longcroft Park last year, said she was shocked to hear of a crime spree in the ‘sleepy town’.
They range from more minor offenses like shoplifting, to arson and carrying knives.
It comes after The Argus revealed a police poster had been made to help railway staff identify 30 children known to authorities in the area.
Two of the children in the poster were brothers George, 14, and Archie Tilley, 16, who were sentenced to 12 years in prison each for the attack on Mr Willson on April 4 last year.
Ms Willson, 51, wants the justice system to change for the most serious young offenders following a recent crime.
She said: ‘I’m shocked it’s come this far, a sleepy town like Worthing where all the old people come to retire. We’re all looking over our shoulders now, that’s wrong.
“We are all told to support your local businesses, yet they are the ones who are targeted.
“I can’t even begin to think about what made kids like this.
“It depends on the justice system, it has to change.
“In the Worthing community, people are scared. People are so scared because they are helpless to do anything.
“You have people who inherited the money and invested it in a business, but that business is trashed. It breaks people’s hearts.”
One such business was Strandways Hardware in Durrington, which revealed it could activate a break clause in its lease and close permanently after 45 years on the high street.
Our month-long investigation revealed a series of shoplifting, muggings and criminal damage along the Worthing line to Hove.
These were made in independent stores, as well as in supermarkets.
A man, who lives in the Worthing area but wished not to be named, has called for orders banning worst offenders from town centers due to “rampant and crazy” shoplifting.
A co-op worker, who wished not to be named, said she was so afraid of going home by train after shifts, one stop away, that she took a taxi to avoid trouble .
One of the most serious incidents took place when a 14-year-old boy hit a Budgens shop worker with a knife in Boxgrove, Worthing on March 7.
He was fined £22 and given a youth rehabilitation order which means he must wear an electronic tag and had a curfew.
Ms Willson added: “Shop workers are paid minimum wage but face maximum danger. This must stop.
“The boy who went to the store with a knife, what is it?
“Youth courts and magistrates have no power for dangerous things like this. He should go straight to crown court, that kid is dangerous.