Shoppers are terrified to visit their local high street while teenage hooligans wreak havoc by ransacking shops, spitting at police and swearing at passersby. 

Police have arrested two teenagers - one for spitting on an officer - after a gang of youths terrorised shops and shoppers in Southwick Square.

Residents have told how a gang of youngsters went into the Co-op and grabbed cases of drinks, throwing goods around and breaking a food bank collection bin.

Some said they have been sworn at in the street. 

The Argus: A row of shops in Southwick SquareA row of shops in Southwick Square (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Police issued a Section 34 dispersal order between the evening of Thursday, February 2 and the morning of Saturday, February 4. The order gives officers the power to disperse groups of people for 48 hours at a time.

Sergeant Christopher Moloney from Sussex Police's local policing division said: "We used the order last week due to a spike in antisocial behaviour in the area.

"It was particularly nasty last week, and we made two arrests on Thursday. One has been charged for assaulting a police officer, where they spat at an officer, and the other was bailed for a public order offence."

The Argus: The order covered much of Southwick's town centreThe order covered much of Southwick's town centre (Image: Sussex Police / Google)

On Monday, Sgt Moloney held a "street briefing" alongside local councillors and police community support officers outside the Co-op in Southwick Square to reassure and inform concerned residents.

Read more: Claims gang is out of control

The briefing had to be stopped on several occasions as shouting youths interrupted the proceedings.

Sgt Moloney said: "We decided to be outside the Co-op because, unfortunately for the branch, they have been the victim of a lot of shoplifting recently. And it seems to be the hub of the antisocial behaviour."

The Argus: The co-op in Southwick SquareThe co-op in Southwick Square (Image: NQ Staff)

A nearby resident has told of the moment he ran into the “bolshy” children as he went to get shopping at the Co-op at about 5.30pm on Wednesday, February 1.

He said: “I was walking to the shop in Southwick Square and as I was crossing the road, I saw a big group of girls and boys.

“One of them offered me a Cadbury Flake. I said ‘no thanks’ and she called me a c***.

“Then, one of the boys started throwing plastic bottles of coke everywhere.

“There are always kids hanging around in the area, but I’ve never seen anything like that before."

The Argus: There is a small green space in the centre of the squareThere is a small green space in the centre of the square (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

A gang of children ransacked the Co-op in the square later that evening.  Suzi Howell witnessed the incident. She posted online and said: "A group of about 30 teenage girls and boys went in, stealing cases of things and then began throwing products at staff and customers.

"They kicked over the food bank bin, breaking glass which has all been thrown away. Police would not come as usual, so they have had to shut the shop for staff and customers safety. Who are these kids?"

"I would be mortified if it was my children," another witness said. 

Another said: "It was quite disturbing. It made me feel like not going there again. Others must feel the same, and this will have such an impact on trade."

Get more great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day by signing up to our morning newsletter - don't miss out!

A spokeswoman for the Co-op said: "There was an incident at our Southwick Square store last week and it closed for a short period of time in the evening on Wednesday, February 1.

"It reopened as usual the following morning to continue serving the local community. Our priority is colleague and customer safety and we are working with the local police to combat the ongoing antisocial behaviour."

The WH Smith in the same parade of shops has a window boarded up with wood panelling, which locals said was because it was damaged by out-of-control youths.

The Argus: The WHSmith in SouthwickThe WHSmith in Southwick (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

'It's driving away our customers'

Colin Warner, owner of the Beer Engine pub in Southwick Square, said: "It's been going on for quite a while now.

"The language some of the children use is absolutely disgusting.

"You get bikes wheelie-ing up and down. It's driving away our customers. It's just mayhem down here sometimes.

"The kids attract more kids, and they just go in the Co-op and ransack it."

The Argus: Many of the incidents happen after darkMany of the incidents happen after dark (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Antisocial behaviour in the square dates back well over a decade. In 2006, a gang called the Southwick Soldiers was believed to have been responsible for stabbings, muggings and serious injuries across Southwick.