Over the summer, my estate has suffered an increase in what the government likes to call 'anti-social behaviour'. Gardens vandalised, a family racially harassed, a car burned out, bikes nicked, a rise in graffiti, and more besides.
Why? Partly because Hackney Council's incompetence forced our youth club to close for more than half a year. But the other main reason: a 'dispersal zone' on neighbouring Pembury estate. The police, supported by the Council, have got one of these court orders whereby coppers can disperse groups of people who are causing a nuisance on Pembury estate. So they leave the Pembury and cross the road to our estate. It's like having a leaky water pipe in your living room and redirecting it to your kitchen instead of fixing it.
There is a genuine problem with anti-social behaviour on the Pembury, probably because it's run-down and neglected and there is nothing for kids to do. It has around a thousand homes, but doesn't have a playground, so even toddlers have good cause to think that society doesn't care about them. The Pembury used to have a playground, but then Peabody, the landlord, built an office on it.
I don't see how this Dispersal Zone is going to solve the problem. I do, however, see loads of pitfalls - for example, dispersing groups of kids who are just minding their own business. And who do you reckon the police are more likely to disperse - a group of youngsters wearing hoodies, or a group of suits discussing the stock market?
And you have to wonder why the police even need this order. If groups of people are threatening or harming others, then the police already have enough power to deal with it. Threatening behaviour is an offence, you know. But I guess that stuff like collecting evidence and proving a case against someone is a little tiresome, so it's just that much easier to move them on - on to someone else's patch, that is.
A member of our Tenants' and Residents' Association committee wrote to our local councillors, and got a reply from one of them saying that he was very sorry to hear what was going on - and, er, that was about it.
The police? Well, they patrolled the estate in the early afternoon, rather than when any trouble was likely to take place. And when we asked them to do something useful - lock up the playground at night - they came up with some lame excuse as to why this was impractical.
I'll comment later on what our TRA is going to do about it. In the meantime, any suggestions are welcome.