“HORSHAM suffers from serious organised crime,” Chief Inspector Mark Trimmer has told the County Times.
The town has fallen victim to criminals who travel from outside the area to commit offences.
Officers believe a recent spate of town centre purse snatching, ongoing metal theft and stolen vehicles are all linked to criminal commuters.
“Clearly the Horsham district suffers from serious organised crime by people who live outside the district,” said CI Trimmer, “and we are aware of items being stolen and recovered en route to the boarder.”
Earlier this year, a tractor from the district was spotted at Dover as thieves prepared to steal it across the Channel.
PC Jon Walker said Horsham is targeted ‘because it’s easy to commute in via the road and rail network and it’s an affluent area - they can get in and out quickly’. We also know that the town is subject to shop lifting,” added CI Trimmer.
In September this year the County Times reported how shopkeepers feared Horsham is an ‘easy target’ for thieves - after figures revealed a massive 32 per cent rise in shoplifting over the past 12 months.
There were 321 reported thefts from shops in Horsham from September 2010 to August 2011, compared to 243 the year before, according to Sussex Police.
Concerns were raised about the town being viewed as a ‘soft touch’, and some business owners argued that more needed to be done by the police and the council to address the growing problem.
As a result, Shopwatch - a scheme designed to help Horsham shops fend off thieves - fell under scrutiny.
In September, after investigation by this paper, the Shop Watch page on Horsham District Council’s website appeared to be defunct, having last been updated in July 2010.
However, since then, police say significant progress has been made with the scheme. Sergeant James Makepeace, of Horsham Police, said: “We have put into action a radio system between shops.
“Shopkeepers can communicate with their town centre colleagues about suspicious activity, that way everyone becomes aware instantly. All businesses with Shopwatch have access to an online photo gallery of Horsham’s most wanted.
“There are no names or details of the individuals, but it’s an easy way for businesses to access this type of information and updates.”
There are more than ten persons of interest pictured under Horsham’s Most Wanted section at present.
In the lead up to Christmas, Sgt Makepeace confirmed there has been an increased presence of officers in town at peak times.
“We are aware of changing shoplifting trends in the area and will adapt,” he said.
“We’ve been focusing on the retailers in the run up to Christmas. We ask shopkeepers to have the common sense approach to your retail layout.
“All it takes is to make it just a little bit more difficult for things to get stolen.
“Move your products from the front of your shop near the door further back, so they can’t pick anything up on the way out.”
He added: “I can say hand on heart that Horsham is one of the safest places to live in Sussex.”
For more information on Shopwatch or to join visit www.horshamcsp.org