Thugs, thieves and bullies were targeted in police raids in Brighton today.

Operation Detonate was aimed at rounding up a gang who 'steam' through town centre shops, assaulting staff, stealing goods and terrorising people on the Whitehawk estate.

Thirty police officers raided seven addresses, most of them in Whitehawk, early today. Several arrests were made. Stolen property was recovered including designer clothing with price tags still attached.

Insp Paul Smith, east Brighton police commander, said: "This minority

of troublemakers were spoiling what is otherwise a peaceful Whitehawk estate.

"The vast majority of Whitehawk people are law-abiding, decent people and we will not tolerate the behaviour of this small group. Whitehawk is otherwise a safe place to live."

Insp Smith said officers were now looking closely at antisocial behaviour by individuals in relation to new civil powers available to the police. One individual may soon be taken to court so an antisocial behaviour order can be maintained.

The action would restrain him from being abusive or violent to people in the community and could make him liable to prosecution if in breach of the order. Only two such orders have been made so far in Sussex.

Acting Insp Emma Brice, Brighton town centre police commander, said officers were cracking down on groups of 'steamers' who go into shops en masse. Some cause violent disruptions while their accomplices steal goods.

She said: "This is a relatively new problem which started in London and has now moved to Brighton. We are determined to nip it in the bud."

By lunchtime today, six people had been arrested, five men and one woman. Police used CCTV footage from the Whitehawk and town centre security cameras to gather intelligence on suspects.Insp Paul Smith warned: "This is an ongoing operation and more early morning door-knocks can be expected."

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