Thousands demand crackdown on Worthing youth crime after Alan Willson assault

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding a crackdown on youth crime in Worthing following the attack on local father Alan Willson.

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding a crackdown on youth crime in Worthing following the attack on local father Alan Willson.

Mr Willson was assaulted by a gang of teenagers in Longcroft Park on Easter Sunday (April 4) after running to protect his 11-year-old son from being bullied.

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He remains in Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital in a serious condition, said police.

Alan Willson. Pic: Just Giving/Cheryl Edwards SUS-210413-122630001

Five teenagers were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent, but have been bailed under strict conditions, according to Sussex Police.

The attack prompted an outpouring of anger and grief across Worthing. A petition has been set up urging Sussex Police to do more to clamp down on youth crime.

“This petition is being run in the hope that we, the people of Worthing and Sussex can make a change,” the petition, set up by Mark Mason, said.

“Enough is enough. The intimidation, the humiliation, the physical and mental pain from such violence will remain.”

More than 3,000 people have signed the call for harsher sentences on prolific young offenders.

Responding to the petition, Worthing’s district commander, Chief Inspector Sarah Leadbetter, said police were aware of concerns around youth crime in the area and were committed to tackling the issue.

“Over the past couple of years we have made a number of arrests to disrupt criminal and anti-social behaviour involving a small group of young people in the area,” she said.

“These arrests have often resulted in successful convictions.

“We have also worked closely with partner agencies in an effort to engage with those responsible and, when they are under 18, their parents or carers.

“We will continue to respond to these issues, and encourage people to report incidents to us. Reports of crime can be made to police online or by calling 101 – always dial 999 in an emergency.

“Officers regularly carry out patrols in the area as part of their day-to-day activity, and these have been increased following the assault in Longcroft Park on Sunday, April 4.

“CCTV in public places such as parks is a joint venture with local partner agencies, including the local council, and is a multi-agency decision.”

In August last year, police convicted a gang of seven teenagers from Worthing and Lancing for 32 offences over the previous 14 months.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, to whom the petition was addressed, said she shared the concerns of local residents, some of whom had written to her office.

The PCC’s office had brokered meetings with local councillors to reassure communities, she said, and the force was already planning for likely increases in public disorder and violence as Covid restrictions are eased.

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A fundraiser for Alan Willson and his family has already raised more than £35,000. People can visit a JustGiving site to donate.