OPINION: Our Streets Belong To Us
A couple of years ago I arrived home late at night having driven a hundred miles home., and noticed another car follow me around. I live in a complex of flats with allocated parking for residents and it was unusual to see someone else pulling in so late on a Sunday night (it’s mostly couples who all have to get up for work the next day). I wasn’t concerned as I was still in my car, presuming it was maybe a taxi someone had called. The driver though parked a few feet away and walked over to me. I wound down my window and he asked me if I knew if he could buy drugs from any of the flats nearby. And if so, which one…! I was taken aback as I live in a privately owned block of flats with nice gardens in a quiet street in the suburbs of NW London. At night and sometimes even during the day it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop! I have never felt afraid, even coming home in the middle of the night.
Anyway, back to the potential drug purchaser. I informed him there was nowhere he could buy drugs. I asked him what on earth made him think he could? He said he didn’t know and then turned towards his car. I decided to wait in mine until he had gone. But he then turned to me again and asked what I was waiting for… So I said I am waiting for you to leave! At which point he went back to his car and drove off, and to be fair he didn’t seem threatening or menacing, just a young guy who thought he could buy drugs in my block of flats….!
I later found out that someone had indeed been selling drugs from the block of flats next door to mine, and the local safer neighbourhood team (PSCOs not paid police) very kindly sent us a letter saying the neighbourhood team had dealt with it. I called them to ask for more details as to how long it had been going on and whether any arrests had been made, but they told me I was not entitled to know that, even though I live there. Or even to have been told in advance to be careful if approached…Oh well, at least I was never asked again about drugs after that I guess. Hey ho, the things we are expected to get used to!
I then began to rack my memory and remembered how a few months earlier I had been disturbed by flashing lights outside one evening. I saw a police car parked outside my block of flats. 2 policemen emerged with a young man. He was struggling against them but they managed to lean him against the car and eventually apply handcuffs. He was speaking to them in a foreign language which sounded like French (he looked African). I didn’t recognise him as one of my neighbours and had never seen him before (but unfortunately many people now rent their flats out so it’s hard to know WHO lives there anyway). The police had to literally drag him out of the building. It was a bit worrying and unusual so a couple of days later I called the police to find out what had been going on. I was greeted with a wall of silence – apparently I am not allowed to know even though I live in the block of flats he was removed from! I can only surmise that perhaps it was linked to the aforementioned drug dealing…. I was never allowed to know.
So, on with the decline in where I live. The next issue was a lovely pub opposite me which was turned into into a mini supermarket. Two huge ugly betting shops have also opened which are open til quite late in the same road, which is a tiny parade of shops on an otherwise completely residential road with a school and 2 parks….. bizarre! Walking past the supermarket soon became a nightmare as it had a gang of Eastern European men hanging around outside, on a wall, drinking and harassing people all day and night. It came to a head for me one evening when I tried to go into the shop and I had to navigate past a rough drunk who was determined to speak to me. Once I made it into the shop the staff told me what had been going on. The men outside spent all day coming in and out trying to shoplift. They were often drunk and would just try all day, having nothing else to do and in between harassing customers.. . The staff and security guards couldn’t cope with the amount of attempts as they often became violent. The police would come and try to help but were often too late of course. At one point a farcical sign went up saying ‘It is against the law to shoplift’ !!! And that evening a security guard insisted on walking me to my car. It all came to a crescendo when one of the staff ended up in an altercation with one of the gang and got his face slashed open with a knife and had to be rushed to hospital. It all went on for a while longer but the ensuing investigation after the knife attack resulted in them being moved on, eventually. I guess it couldn’t go on any longer but why did it have to come to that in the first place?
Opposite this, there is a small row of shops with flats above. In one of them lived a man who often wandered around the street drunk and wearing just a coat, sometimes one shoe and arguing with various acquaintances loudly and in a foreign language. Great to see after a hard days work. Add to this various men sitting at the bus stop trying to talk to women as they went by. They usually had cans of beer and one enterprising young man decided a lovely way to spend the evening would be to balance loads of cans of beer on a bin and drink his way through them while watching everyone walking home from work. I asked him why he was doing it, he said just because he could so why not? The question itself seemed to perplex him. How does it benefit us having so many aimless people entering our country unchecked and uncontrolled? The joke really is on us.
Anyway, on phoning the police about all of this I again came up against a brick wall, I was told I should be careful not to be racist, that I was judging them, that they might be homeless, that it was none of my business and that they couldn’t see what my problem was. After a 20 minute conversation that nearly ended in a row, I gave up. The police officer was determined not to do anything, so I left it…. how many others give up too?
There has been a general decline over the years, sometimes improving, sometimes dropping drastically, including spates of muggings and fights at the station, a stabbing, an attack on a ticket office member of staff, young men smoking drugs by the ticket machines, people riding bikes up the platform, and the most shocking of all on a Sunday afternoon – a shooting at the traffic lights between 2 cars – drug related. This didn’t happen all at once of course, it been over a number of years, but before that, it was unheard of in such a quiet area. I do believe this sorry tale is repeated endlessly across London, and increasingly across the whole of the UK.
It’s tiring, and depressing. Add to it the overcrowding, the lack of facilities, the occasional flytipping, the diminishing of hearing the English accent or indeed English at all when I wander around where I live, I’m beginning to feel a minority in my own town, and have in fact felt that way for a very long time, because of course, I am.
I’m not laying the blame for ALL of this on mass immigration and open borders, of course. We had plenty of people already who would gladly drag standards down. But once you are overcrowded and nobody knows anyone anymore, there is no communication and no one cares, things start to go downhill and standards get lowered. And then it’s a downhill slippery slope, all the way to the bottom, with no return. It’s al struggle to stay on top of things and with less police around and their unwillingness to get involved, you increasingly start to feel you are on your own, which we are really, there is nothing between you and all of this other than your front door. …
Like I say, dealing with all this wears you down. Maybe that is the plan. That we will lie down and give in, and no longer expect any sort of quality of life other than working and being a consumer, trawling through the rubble that used to be our way of life…. But I will continue the fight. We need to reclaim our streets and feel safe again. . …. And I am ever hopeful.