Town is 'powerless' to stop wave of shoplifting and youth violence

Worthing has been blighted with criminality. Inset, George and Archie Tilley who were jailed for the attack on Alan Willson
Worthing has been blighted with criminality. Inset, George and Archie Tilley who were jailed for the attack on Alan Willson

PEOPLE in a seaside town blighted by youth crime are “powerless” to stop children from a spate of shoplifting and violence.

Annie Willson, wife of Alan Willson, who was almost killed in Worthing's Longcroft Park last year, said she was shocked to hear about a spate of crime in the “sleepy town”.

They range from more minor offences like shoplifting, to arson attacks and carrying knives.

It comes after The Argus revealed a police poster was made to help railway staff identify 30 children known to authorities in the area.

Two of the children on the poster were brothers George, 14, and Archie Tilley, 16, who were sentenced to 12 years each in prison for the attack on Mr Willson on April 4 last year.

Archie Tilley, left, and brother George Tilley

Mrs Willson, 51, wants the justice system to change for the most serious youth offenders following recent crime.

She said: “I am shocked that it has got this far, a sleepy town like Worthing where all the old people come to retire. We’re all looking over our shoulders now, it’s wrong.

“We’re all told to support your local shops, yet those are the ones being targeted.

“I can’t even begin to think what has made kids be like this.

“This is down to the justice system, it needs to change.

Annie and Alan Willson this summer

“In the Worthing community, people are scared. People are so scared because they are powerless to do anything.

“You have people who have inherited money and put it into a business, yet that business gets trashed. It breaks people’s hearts.”

One of those businesses was Strandways Hardware in Durrington which revealed it could activate a break clause in its lease and close for good after 45 years in the high street.

Our month long investigation uncovered a spate of shoplifting, assaults and criminal damage along the Worthing line up to Hove.

Kwik Vape in Tarring Road, Worthing, had its window smashed in February

These have been carried out in independent shops, as well as supermarkets.

One man, who lives in the Worthing area but wished not to be named, called for orders banning the worst offenders from town centres due to "rampant and crazy" shoplifting.

A Co-op worker, who wished not to be named, said she is so scared to go home by train after shifts, one stop away, that she gets a taxi to avoid trouble.

One of the most serious incidents was when a 14-year-old boy swung at a Budgens shopworker with a knife in Boxgrove, Worthing on March 7.

He received a £22 fine and was given a youth rehabilitation order which means he has to wear an electronic tag and had a curfew.

A boy who swung at a shop worker on March 7

Mrs Willson added: “Shopworkers get the minimum wage but face maximum danger. That has to stop.

“The boy who went to the shop with a knife, what is that about?

“Youth courts and magistrates’ don’t have power for dangerous things like that. It should go straight to crown court, that child is dangerous.”