15 Feral Street

This BBC story did the rounds on Twitter a couple of days ago:

“It is very scary,” says mother-of-four Melanie Smith, sitting on the sofa which doubles as her bed, a few feet from the oven and sink of her one-room studio.

Pressed close to her couch is one of the two beds that fill the rest of her flat and upon which her two sons eat, play and sleep.

Ms Smith is one of hundreds of residents placed at Terminus House in Harlow by councils in and around London, often many miles from everything and everybody they once knew.

The former office block – the Essex town’s tallest building – is one of hundreds up and down England which have been turned into housing without ever needing planning permission.

Almost everybody thought this was an example of appalling government housing policy, and did the usual thing of blaming heartless Tories. But while living in a tiny flat may be uncomfortable, there’s no reason why it should be deeply unpleasant. I’ve been to enough Soviet-era Russian apartments to know that’s true. What makes them unpleasant is this:

But since the building was resurrected as a housing complex in April 2018, crime has soared.

Police figures show that in the first 10 months after people moved in, crime within Terminus House itself rose by 45%, and within that part of the town centre (within a 500m radius) by nearly 20% – to more than 500 incidents – compared with the previous 10 months. More than 100 incidents involved violence or sex crimes.

Incidents included anti-social behaviour, burglary, criminal damage and arson. There has also been at least one drugs raid.

She said it was not safe for her children to go downstairs, even during the day, because of drug users who are “out of it”.

“It is very scary. You don’t know who is outside the door,” she said.

“Any arguments that happen, it is always, constantly, outside the door. Often you hear them banging against the door where they are fighting.

“The wall next to me – I had to clean the blood off it two weeks ago.”

It doesn’t matter where you go in Britain, areas where there are a lot of poor people or welfare recipients are plagued by a minority of anti-social scumbags most of whom are career criminals and many of them violent. It wouldn’t matter if the poor were housed in luxury flats in Canary Wharf if this element is not dealt with. Now I don’t know how you  can deal with anti-social people making everyone’s life a living hell without giving governments appalling arbitrary powers, but I do know that any initiative to tackle the problem – withdrawing welfare payments, harsher prison sentences, exile to the hinterlands – would be fiercely resisted by those now bawling at the situation the residents find themselves in.

The fact is British people are far too lenient when it comes to scumbags, and insist on subsidising their criminal lifestyles via a generous welfare system. So long as an industry exists to support and defend these people as they terrorise their neighbours, there’s not a housing policy in the world that can provide safe homes for the poor.

And isn’t this just typical:

Terminus House is covered by nearly 100 high definition CCTV cameras.

“We just want to make sure that all the areas are covered,” says Paul Jackson, regional manager at Caridon Property, which owns and runs the building.

“We do have some people that are vulnerable and it makes them feel safe. And should there be any incidents then they are covered and the police can use our system.”

The police can’t be bothered keeping law and order, probably because they know the court system won’t prosecute miscreants. So it falls to the building management to install that great British catch-all solution – more CCTV cameras – to enable the police to identify who battered that old lady half to death a few days after the incident. Politicians, the justice system, the police, and just about everyone else has utterly failed the poor. This whole story has little to do with housing, but by pretending it does the middle classes can virtue-signal while avoiding any discussion of the real problem.

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19 thoughts on “15 Feral Street

  1. I’m reminded of a quote by the late Peter Risdon (his blog sadly now cybersquatted) referring to one of Theodore Dalrymple’s essays on the poor, and how the sort of habitation where there was human excrement on the stairs wasn’t down to poverty of money, but poverty of morals.

  2. The sort of habitation where there was human excrement on the stairs wasn’t down to poverty of money, but poverty of morals.

    PJ O’Rourke made the same observation when he visited housing projects in New Jersey.

  3. The right of self defence is the answer. But a brave and well armed population unwilling to take any more shite from criminal scum might just decide it is not willing to take any more shite from political scum either.

    In light of recent events f*** all will be done to help these people. Might be better not to have two kids on benefits in the first place.

  4. One solution which sounds very Soviet Russian but worked was to allow the tenants to have a veto on who moves in.

    This was done on a council estate (it happened a while ago – more than 10 years – so I can’t remember where) and another estate was reserved as a dumping ground for the scum. The result was that the police could police the dump estate effectively and the decent folks could live their lives among like minded people.

    The whole apple cart was upset by social workers who complained and insisted on placing the bad apples among the good (everyone deserves a 132nd chance, eh?) so that they would be encouraged to rise up to the same level of good behaviour. Guess what happened … answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address.

    The problem is the people running the system, not necessarily all the people IN the system.

  5. Near me is a house divided into flats and filled with people who under the Rehabilitation of Offenders umbrella are ‘integrating’ back into society. One flat is occupied by a former felon who now, it seems, deals drugs; our assessment is based on a constant stream of shaggy sad-sacks who turn up at his flat and leave hurriedly two minutes later. The occupant has also managed to get a marker hung on a nearby telephone wire to indicate this where drugs are sold.

    We did have a relief from this procession of Ne’er Do Wells when the guy broke some terms of his probation and went back inside for a few weeks though curiously his flat was trashed just after he departed and NACRO, who organise this occupation, had to clean it up and repair it for when laddo eventually returned. I understand he has to go back to the same accommodation, but happily now improved.

    The police we are told are aware of what’s going on in this place but are, apparently, more interested in the mythical ‘mr Big’ than Joe Non-Soap who provides the needs of the scruffy locals. We don’t expect a raid anytime soon. Meanwhile among the people scurrying past our house to surreptitiously knock on improved flat’s door are the odd young teenage girl.

    Not all the NACRO people at this house approve but we believe they may be scared.

    We live in interesting times among very unappealing people.

  6. The problem is the people running the system, not necessarily all the people IN the system.

    Exactly.

  7. If you’re looking to the police & the courts for a solution, you’re looking in the wrong place. The only thing that can police the community is the community itself. A society can regulate itself by social pressures.
    Unfortunately, the politicians have done their level best to destroy communities. To take away the power of a community to order itself for themselves. Think about how much legislation there is to outlaw intolerance. As if intolerance was, itself, a bad thing. Intolerance is the lever society uses to preserve the consensus & consensus about what is appropriate behaviour is what makes a society a society. Without a consensus, we’re all just individuals who happen to live alongside each other. But the consensus must come from within a society, not be imposed from outside, or it’s not a consensus. It’s a dictatorship.
    There will never be enough rope to hang liberals but surely we can find enough to string up libertarians?

  8. The problem is also the ideology subscribed to by those who run the system. When you believe (or pretend to believe, cos your job or social standing depend on it) that anti-social behaviour is a reaction to relative poverty, you can always excuse the offender until such time as we have complete equality. Disgusting behaviour is encouraged, as a means of furthering a utopian agenda.

  9. The problem is the people running the system, not necessarily all the people IN the system.

    Well, until the non-problematic people in the system grow a pair of testicles and start gumming up the works, they ain’t much better than the people running it, are they?

  10. Frank Field who was my (labour) M.P. a few years back wanted to dump malcontents off housing estates and make them live under flyovers, it made quite a few of his constituents rather happy…..Blair dumped him instead.

  11. BIS, I was brought up on a council estate in Huyton Liverpool a place now unfit for any kind of purpose. Growing up it was a place where not cutting hedges, not cleaning steps and windows, not having clean kids, not being respectable in public dress and behaviour led to total contempt from neighbours. It was an intolerance and form of social policing that made my childhood safe and comfortable. Me…..I’m very very intolerant.

  12. @ Thud
    There’s a thing. One of the places I feel safest in London is Dagenham. Sprawling council estate in the east of London used to scare the shit out of me as a kid. Not my turf & not welcome there. But notable now for its tidy streets & tidy houses. People haven’t much changed. Girl I know, works in the social services, told me they don’t house Somali asylum seekers there. They get torched out very quickly. They elected BNP councillors for a while. It’s got a lot going for it. has Dagenham.

  13. While the people are definitely the main problem, good urban planning can remove a lot of opportunities for crime. High-rises are bad, because crims can loiter in the lifts and hallways. Safer to have rows of terraced houses, each with individual staircases, divided into flats as required. This is a whole field of study: the UK call it Designing Out Crime, the US have Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Presumably the planning shortcut (which allows offices to be turned into housing without planning permission) meant that they didn’t have to follow the Secured By Design guidelines. In short, I have some sympathy for the complainants: the housing they’ve been given isn’t up to the standard of equivalent council housing.

  14. While the people are definitely the main problem, good urban planning can remove a lot of opportunities for crime. High-rises are bad, because crims can loiter in the lifts and hallways. Safer to have rows of terraced houses, each with individual staircases, divided into flats as required.

    Nope, it’s the people, full stop. You have row upon row of high rise apartment buildings in Tokyo with almost no crime. And Detroit is mostly single family homes, but a crime ridden shithole nonetheless.

    This is a whole field of study: the UK call it Designing Out Crime, the US have Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

    As a field of study, it sounds like a subset of Criminology. Which, unfortunately, is consistently wrong about everything.

  15. @BiS: you’ve been misinformed about Dagenham. Woefully misinformed.

    It doesn’t really matter if they ‘don’t house Somali asylum seekers’ when they are a mere train ride away in Lewisham.

    And as for ‘tidy houses and tidy streets’, you must have visited on a day after the council had finally done something about the flytipping…

  16. Last time & final time I was UK side, Julia, I had an old buddy doing a gearbox overhaul at his business in Dagenham. Stayed with him, couple of days. We were out round what pubs remain, evenings. Carousing with his mates. To me it was like coming home after a long absence. The England I understand. You are polite & well behaved because the consequences of being otherwise can be hazardous. As I gathered was discovered by some outsiders tried some drug retailing thereabouts. Dagenham hasn’t changed that much. It’s a world of difference from Newham.

  17. Growing up it was a place where not cutting hedges, not cleaning steps and windows, not having clean kids, not being respectable in public dress and behaviour led to total contempt from neighbours.

    PJ O’Rourke makes that point too, regarding his own dirt-poor upbringing. A lack of money is not the same as a lack of self-respect, morals, and standards.

    Incidentally, my first postgrad job was in Huyton; Marconi had a depot there, an offshoot of their Edge Lane factory.

  18. Solzhenitsyn covered this in Gulag Archipelago, If the organs of the state had been in doubt of their getting home in one piece after a raid (the midnight knock on the door), they would not have gone on them, the entire apparatus of state control would have collapsed! For ” Organs of State Security” insert “Criminal Scumbags”. Two scum fighting and causing misery in the block; Suddenly six large blokes with ski masks and axe handles appear and proceed to knock seven shades of shit out of them. When worthless plod turn up eventually, no one knows or has seen anything. Rinse and repeat as needed.

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