There are several useful signs indicating that a once desirable area is in decline. When looking to move, the street with multiple betting-shops instead of a friendly, well-stocked local shop, or ubiquitous tanning-salons and armoured assault off-licences is best avoided (unless you want to be called a pioneer, which is code for sucker.) Another warning sign is a police van parked frequently outside, as is often true of Dovecot Towers.
Our main front door is always broken, so anyone can wander in. Impromptu visitors might stroll for a bit; you know, casually check out the sights and explore the amenities, sell us the Watchtower, or greet us with a friendly: ‘Good day to you madam!’
Or, they could race along corridors banging on front doors at all hours, press on the buzzer for ages to see who’s at home before struggling in vain to kick their way in, or glare moodily at residents. They could sleep and piss in the bin rooms, or in extreme cases, sell drugs, mug, assault and murder us. Most visitors, I suspect, could go either way. Same goes for many tenants.
When I first lived here, I called the police to report a horrible domestic assault. They’d never been here before, and struggled to find us. I predicted that in the near future they’d be here all the time, and suggested they could book a parking space downstairs, or just establish a base in this emerging slum.
Lately, I’ve seen world-weary coppers marching in, racing upstairs and then casually out again, escorting miscreants and looking vexed. Last weekend I heard bad lads stomping past my door as they escaped, hotly pursued by three panting officers. Several hours later, the van was still hanging around. Realising they had finished their assignment, I made some enquiries.
The local police are only too aware of the newbuild phenomena and the inherent problems. They too are plagued by easy thefts from post-rooms which are (here we go again…) unlocked, placed in open, insecure buildings, with individual boxes so shallow you can slip your hand inside for ease of stealing. They suggested I spoke to the management company, but they will only deal with owners and landlords, who in turn don’t give a damn, being too busy worrying about the newbuild buy-to-let crash, or if better off, are in an offshore counting-house, counting out their money.
The policewoman I chatted to was astonished at the lack of security cameras, as none are placed where we really need them (i.e. in entrances, lifts and the post room.) She explained that if we found emptied envelopes, they might have fingerprints on, which could provide useful evidence. Then they waited a while, probably taking a breather before they sped urgently away, sirens blaring, to their latest crime scene.
No need to speed, and sirens not required. I watched them pile out of the van again and straight back into Dovecot Towers, primed to thwart another dastardly criminal.
It really would be cheaper if they got a room here.