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'Smoking crack in the hallways' - residents' fury over drug use and fights at 'dystopian' city flats

PUBLISHED: 08:59 24 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:47 24 August 2019

People living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: Archant

People living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: Archant

Archant

Tenants in a block of riverside city flats have hit out at ongoing "intimidating" drug dealing and anti-social behaviour which they say has left residents "petrified".

A/Sgt Sam Burton at work placing a closure order at a flat on Watson Grove, in Norwich. Picture: Dominic GilbertA/Sgt Sam Burton at work placing a closure order at a flat on Watson Grove, in Norwich. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

People living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area were making their lives a misery.

But police and a local housing agency said they were aware of the issues and were cracking down.

One resident at the Bishop Bridge Road flats, who asked not to be identified, said: "There's always been a massive amount of drug dealing. There's fights going on all the time.

"It's like stepping into a parallel universe or a dystopian reality.

People living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: ArchantPeople living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: Archant

"It's worse here than in London. Our doors get kicked in so people can take drugs and smoke crack in the hallways."

They added: "People get worn down. Residents have got mental health issues and they're petrified to go out into the garden at night. It's slowly got worse and worse. I'm 63 years old and I've stumbled into drug deals."

Norfolk police said they were working to tackle the issue and that the Norwich East Safer Neighbourhood Team (NESNT) was aware of the concerns.

Acting police sergeant Sam Burton said: "We are working with partners in Orbit Housing who own some of the housing and they are aware of that anti-social behaviour.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin'sDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

"We are looking at doing enforcement action and dealing with anti-social behaviour and drug dealing going on. They will be taking tenancy action against the tenants.

"We are also working with partner agencies to tackle drug dealing in the area."

Another resident, Will, who did not want to give his last name, added: "There was a big police crackdown a year ago which must have sorted it for about three days. There's a lot of drug dealing still going on.

"It's a bit intimidating - there's often arguments and shouting at night. You always feel a bit nervous going to the shops."

People living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: ArchantPeople living in William White Place said repeated drug deals and anti-social behaviour in the area are making their lives a misery. Photo: Archant

Will, who has lived in the flat for a year and was formerly homeless, added: "I don't think the resources to help people recover are there.

"Ultimately it's not going to go away if people have drug issues. A more visible [police] presence in the area would help."

He added that another issue involved sex work going on in the area.

And an employee working nearby, who asked not to be identified, said: "I've been threatened with violence after I wouldn't give people money or cigarettes in the street. You see police cars and ambulances up the hill every day."

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Sgt Burton said: "Over the last three months a lot of work has gone into the ongoing issue of prostitution [including] tackling the gentlemen that have been driving around there.

"We are aware and have been taking action and calls in the area in response to prostitution have fallen quite significantly recently.

"It's not that its stopped but it has fallen, and we know residents are grateful for what the team have done."

He added: "The message from us is if you have an address and you are acting in an anti-social manner or dealing drugs we will be working with partner agencies to take action."

Residents claimed some of the issues were linked to the nearby homeless hostel, Bishopbridge House, a night shelter for rough sleepers, run by charity St Martins.

Will claimed the problems he described were "connected to the night shelter", while others also made the link.

One said: "It's a mix of drug deals but we also get trouble from residents in the hostel."

But the chief executive of the charity said there was no evidence the shelter, on William Kett Close, was linked to the ongoing problems, and claimed residents were being unfairly blamed.

Dr Jan Martin said: "St Martins has a zero tolerance approach to all illegal and anti-social behaviour.

"Where there is any evidence that the people we support have been involved in drug dealing activity we support our colleagues in the police force fully with their work."

She added: "However, it is important to acknowledge that homeless people are often stigmatised and unfairly vilified. Not all homeless people are drug users, many are vulnerable."

She said there was a wider "crisis", and that antisocial behaviour linked to drug dealing was not isolated to the area surroundings one of their hostels.

"It is never anyone's life ambition to be in need of our services," she said.

Meanwhile, housing agency Orbit said it was aware of concerns and was working closely with police to crack down on the issue.

Andrew Meyer, head of tenancy services, said: "We are working with residents and in close partnership with the police and environmental health to address the concerns raised.

"We take all reports of this nature extremely seriously and will do all we can to help resolve them."

A spokesperson for the housing agency also said, where criminal activity impacts on residents, they offer a referral to Victim Support.

"We have some customers with mental health issues so have made referrals to our mental health support service, Breathing Space to assist them," they said.

"We also sign post to other agencies best placed to tackle issues, along with other support agencies as and where appropriate."

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