Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Antisocial Behaviour, anyone?

I had the dubious pleasure of being invited to contribute to a Lewisham Homes' Focus Group on Anti Social Behaviour Service this Thursday. 'Input from residents is very important to us because it helps to shape how we develop our services'.

I'm sure they can't be in any doubt by now what I think of the service. I think it is shit and I have told them so many times, and most leaseholders resent paying for it. Tenants do not know they are paying for it. It cannot work. It seems I will have to go to a meeting to say it again...but no, I have apparently responded too late and the Focus Group is full. Get a bigger room, I say.

Before I get on my high horse, please get in touch and let me know if you have had any positive experiences of dealing with the ASB Team, or whether you think the extra charge for it (to leaseholders) is justified. Maybe, just maybe, it has worked for you, whether tenant or leaseholder?

OK, here's what's come up in TRA meetings over the past year: (READ ON if you dare...)

ASB on Crossfields

1. Holden House
Endless reports (lost by ASB team to start with and seemingly later on too) that have been going on since Feb 2009, resulted in a court case finally in March 2010 to evict a pyschotic, sorry, antisocial tenant. He was let go with a warning due to his poor mental health (he's a raging drug addict for fuck's sake) and because 'no reports had been received since the decision was made to take him to court in Sept 2009'. Reports have been made since then however: excessive noise, attacking a neighbour with a hatchet, junkie friends shitting on the stairs, throwing furniture out of windows, running around the estate with a hammer. The noise people eventually decided to take away his stereo equipment after repeated warnings and then 'forgot' to do so.

There was also complete failure to keep witnesses up to date with proceedings. Witnesses were not invited to go to court, and the main witness was not even told of the court date. However, we have been told "having assessed the evidence we have received or obtained on a balance of probabilities we have concluded that the allegations made against x is partially founded..." (Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense, does it, but it's not legalese jargon, it's the words of an incompetent ASB case officer).

In addition, a tenant who had been harrassed by him and his mates did not report it because they didn't know there was an ASB team to report to.

Cllr Stephen Padmore asked in June 2009 for Tenants to be leafleted about the service since it was likely they didn't know about the new service because it was not itemised in their rent bills (it is an extra itemised cost for leaseholders). But the leafleting never happened, not even once except for a Met Police leaflet round about Xmas, so it is hardly surprising people have not been reporting the Holden House tenant's behaviour, or any other matters, to the ASB team. Nor would they want to once they saw what was involved (see below about Incident Diary Sheets).

The tenant taken to court has been entrusted to keep the peace, but those who live nearby are not optimistic. More bloody Incident Diary Sheets to fill in then, to no effect (to get lost in a big pile somewhere).

2. Dangerous dog owner in Wilshaw House
The owner of a dangerous dog that mauled a neighbour's cat to death has still not been dealt with. Concerned neighbours were told that Leasehold Services had recently written a letter to the leaseholder whose flat he lives in. They failed to tell us that the leaseholder in question has been trying to remove the dog owner for illegal occupation since Nov 2009. He continues to walk the dog off the leash and the dog has just had puppies. The Leasehold Team didn't let the worried neighbours know, probably because they didn't know what they know, and the ASB team of course don't know their arse from their elbow.
See story here on Estate Matters.

3. Dangerous owner of a dog in Castell House
An event happened yesterday concerning another dog owner who got violent when asked to put his dog on a lead. It is not even worth reporting to ASB, considering the above.
See story here on Estate Matters.

4. An ongoing noise problem in Holden House
Could not be dealt with by ASB and has had to go to 'mediation'. Nothing can be done to make the offenders co-operate or even attend a mediation.

5. Ongoing noise problem in Wilshaw House
Persistent loud music from an inconsiderate tenant was dealt with by the council's noise team and the police. (Update required)...

6. Church services held in Wilshaw House and Castell House
Congregational church singing at all hours was not reported because the neighbours did not know about the ASB service, or if they did, they didn't have faith in its efficacy and endless form filling.

7. A mugging on the estate
Was adopted by the ASB team in case the perpetrators were tenants, but we have never been informed of proceedings or consequence.
8. Open air drug dealing
A report of a short episode of drug dealing in the ball court area last year (attracting unwelcome visitors to the estate) was adopted by ASB; a witness's photo of the dealer had to be supplied to the ASB team rather than the police (in case the dealer turned out to be a tenant). We have never been informed of proceedings.

The list is probably longer...

... but I don't have time to go through all the TRA minutes of the past year. I know there were problems with our resident rough sleeper, and at Frankham House as well.

As it is, our estate is relatively problem free. Only around 10-20 people have been almost driven out of their minds by so-called antisocial behaviour that the Antisocial Behaviour Team haven't been able to deal with.

The main point is there are services provided by Council Tax that deal with many annoyances and problems. So far, we don't know of any type of problem that the ASB have taken on and solved, or even proved helpful in solving. The one area where they might be useful would be to serve as a conduit between ourselves and the other services (through the TRA), but they can't even do that. They can't even keep us up to date on the cases they have taken on themselves.

The Incident Diary

Cases can only be made by diligent reporting by victims (the archaic Daily Incident Diary format), some of which go missing, which then have to be assessed for their potential for victimising the perpetrator.

If anyone reports something to ASB they have to fill in an Incident Diary, the maintenance of which is not the therapy its inventors assume it is, but in fact an invitation to a spiral of madness for most victims to keep up. Instead of escaping the torture, victims must write about it as it is happening and then put it in the mail and then not hear anything from anyone about it for weeks (with no acknowledgement that it has been received), whilst the problem continues night after night, day after day...

The Incident Diary is a black hole. Many find it difficult to write, even if you knew what you wanted to say, you have to work at it, and the result is guaranteed to be enormously disappointing. Writing about stuff can be therapeutic but not if you have to keep on doing it about exactly the same thing. Someone else's awful behaviour can become your personal obsession and your personal persecution, especially when everything you write is not listened to.

Then your persecutor goes to court with defence from Liberty, who with the best will in the world (obviously) defend your persecutor's human rights to not be evicted – or as you'd like to think, not made homeless, but rehoused somewhere else where he can annoy someone else and ruin their lives and make them almost suicidal for a year or two till the council move him on again. 

Human Rights

Faced with Liberty, the point again is, what bloody use is the ASB Service if it cannot surmount that kind of defence?

This blog might well have been used in court as defence but we have not been informed. Video that we offered to the ASB Team in evidence a year ago wasn't taken up, so we posted it on this site instead (last month, after a year of non-action and after the court case date as it was given to us). (See Wall of Shame, yes it's still up).

That is why powerful pictures taken yesterday of a tenant threatening two women who asked him to put his dog on a lead cannot be posted here. (Nor can they be trusted to be sent to the ASB team, who will surely lose them, and certainly not use them).

Even if the ASB Team could get it together to present a good case: the council cannot afford the legal fees required to fight the defence.

QED: the ASB Service is USELESS

More than that, the service is an insult to everyone who lives in council housing. However, street properties under council management are not charged. An entire almost privatised security system has been set up to monitor what may be the most troublesome elements in the borough, those who live in council flats. We're all apparently more criminal than everyone else in the borough. Maybe that's true. Why don't the police continually swoop on us when there's any crime? We're the obvious place to look.

The ASB Team is not set up to protect leaseholders: leaseholders pay more for it but are equally subject to it. The problems that either tenants or leaseholders, or tenants of leaseholders, may cause can take an age to deal with, and the council cannot win a legal case to save their lives. 

Tenants cannot get rid of tenants or leaseholders; leaseholders cannot get rid of either. A complaint to the ASB Team will result in nothing except a waste of time.
A complaint to Lewisham Homes may have more value since the Audit Commission will judge them on it: 

PLEASE LET US KNOW if you have any positive stories of successful work done by the ASB Service 
Equally, if anyone is clear about the ASB Team's role and can explain it, please feel free to comment, and help us understand. When it was first introduced last year, we were told by the Director of Resources Adam Barrett that the ASB charge covered 'removing lumber'...

Charges to everyone for a useless service...(until it is proved otherwise)

The Housing Select Committee recommended in January 2010 that the charge to leaseholders for the ASB Team be abolished. Unfortunately they did not comment or make recommendations on whether the service itself should be dismantled. Already leaseholders are paying less for it but the difference in charge has been transferred to an equal increase in Resident Involvement.

Until we have proof that the service is of use TO US, we recommend Leaseholders withhold payment for that part of their service charge. They may want also to withhold payment for Resident Involvement which has been equally unfruitful. Tenants may not have noticed the difference except in a rent increase that Lewisham Homes didn't bother to explain.

Tenants may now have another slight increase, which they might put down to 'lumber removal' if Lewisham Homes could be bothered to tell them, but leaseholders will know that as 'Bulk Household Removal', now a new separate charge...but that's another story (The Cost of Chuckin' Out Yer Chintz) to be followed up when Leashold Services have answered our query as to what it means.


  1. Blimey. I think the most annoying thing is that they never discussed it with anybody before introducing it. Where is the case for a separate service for estate dwellers?

    They couldn't tell me what it was for when I asked them last year. Like you say, Sue, there was confusion about what I took to be flytipping – they said it was for removing lumber from balconies, but that really annoyed me cos it must include other people dumping stuff on the estate. It was so unclear what it was for when there are so many other services doing the same thing like removing graffiti, dealing with noise complaints etc.

    Basically they've trialled a service and made us pay for a failed experiment. Keep us posted.

    Oh, and in answer to your question, no I haven't had to use the service at all, nor, I hope, has anyone had to use it on me...

  2. Thanks, Mushroom. I thought I'd gone a bit over the top there. It turns out someone from the TRA has gone to the meeting, even though they were told it was full as well. They asked why a bigger room couldn't be found and was told it was down to catering (the half hour before the meeting that is a tea and coffee moment to meet other residents and staff) he said he'd go at 6pm instead of 5.30pm and miss the tea thing.
    Unfortunately he's not online so I don't have a quick feedback. Also everything he says at Focus Group meetings is hardly ever recorded in the minutes, so I've sent them an email that is a bit more concise than this post...

    I realise I presented a pretty open and shut case, but I did hope that someone might surprise me and have something good to say about ASB. Your comment reminds me that, yes, we were never consulted in the first place. I think I've said somewhere else in these pages that Lewisham Homes' idea of consultation is highly flawed, and generally comes after rather than before, and only has a 5% sample, if that. My experience is that the 5% sample is totally against them, but that's not how it's reported by them.

  3. So X (or should it be G?) is still up to his old tricks. I left Holden House nearly 3 years ago and would have thought the situation would have been resolved one way or another by now. I really find it astounding that Lewisham Homes are still dragging their feet over this issue. When I was living there X was the bane of my life and of many other people's. It's not a nice thing to evict anybody, but his 'rights' should not be maintained to the disadvantage of the rest of the estate's residents. How can the ASB unit really be so oblivious to his behaviour? When I lived there you only had to stand around for an hour or two to see X in all his demented glory. I can't imagine it has got any better. Well, best of luck............appears that you'll need it.

    p.s I appreciate your post above dates back to early 2010. Have there been any further developments since then. I searched your site to see if I could find anything, but to no avail. If possible could you post an update. I lived on the Crossfields for over two decades and have a lot of great memories from there. I like to visit this site for old times sake, so would like to know if any positive (or not) changes have occurred.