I was busy typing in my flat when a yellow card was shoved under the door by the police. It was a ‘Burglary Alert.’ Between the hours of 8am and 3pm, ‘…a property had been burgled.’ Had I seen or heard anything suspicious? Did I have any information which could assist them to catch those responsible or information about other crimes in the area?
Worryingly, I hadn’t heard a thing. Later that evening, I called police to report the following: (here we go again…) the front door is always broken, there’s no security, the management company don’t give a flying one etc, etc. Furthermore (now take a while to enjoy this; it’s brilliant) every single window in the building is fitted with the same lock.
The policeman I spoke to was forthright, paternal and concerned. He took some time leafing through the enormous Dovecot Towers log to find the particular crime in question, and the Dovecot file is very thick indeed, containing ‘…a disproportionately high amount of incidents.’ I told him what I have witnessed: stolen post, intruders etc. He said that when such unreported incidents are included in their statistics, it’s even worse than they imagined. Why hadn’t I gone to the police? I said: we’ve no CCTV (well, what we had was stolen) and I’ve no idea when my post was taken. He said: why not move?
Mostly, he wondered what the management company do about all this, adding that if it was his beat, he would have ‘harsh words’ with them. To his open astonishment, I said that they won’t deal with tenants.
I pointed out that the ‘secure entry code’ on the main door has been the same since February. Despite there being ‘hotel’ guests and countless visitors passing through, the management company (now, this is even better) had informed us about the new code on a window poster next to the broken main door. Bravo!
The kindly policeman told me that three flats were burgled efficiently in quick succession, the locks busted with a cordless drill after gaining easy access through the broken main door. He carefully, but unconvincingly implied that the robberies were not close by, and his final wise advice was to put a huge new fangled padlock on my front door until I moved.
The investigating officer called a week later. She was also horrified: I told her about the door, and the window locks. She had noticed that crime was rife, and security was poor, but I knew that. Nobody else had responded to her card.
Now in abject despair, I emailed my landlord, who contacted the management company, detailing my (and now his) fear. The managers emailed their solution to the security problem.
Was it a new door, or lock?
Security guards or extensive CCTV?
Were they sorry?
They were ‘aware of the situation,’ and had instructed contractors to mend the door whenever it was broken (not – you will note – replace it) which might just be the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Oh – and they promised to contact individual tenants and owners, advising them to replace the locks.
I told some neighbours, who either didn’t believe me, can’t be arsed or think I am a keening prophet of doom (and a bit crazy.) Other residents I spoke to were oblivious to the burglaries, and had not been notified about the urgent necessity of fitting stronger door locks by landlords or the management company. So much for promises and ‘awareness.’
One man I spoke to had only recently moved in. He was astounded by the sense of alienation here; nobody speaking, neighbours shuffling back inside to avoid each other. He’d never seen his neighbours, and I was definitely the first resident to chat. I advised him to have all mail redirected, but he already encountered the Dovecot Mail. Like many here, his post-box was crow-barred open before he moved in, and never mended.
Just a few months or so previously, I wrote here that newbuilds are desolate and neglected and how this will lead to crime, even deaths. I wish I was wrong, but I’m afraid my worst fears are being confirmed. Time to leave? That goes without saying.
(NB As I write this, the main door has been broken for two days.)