The StirrerThe Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond

THE DRUGS DON'T WORK

23-01-2007

Stung by the claim that "nothing much happens" in her ordinary Black Country street, Lynn Hawthorne reflects on police chases, burglary and open drug dealing during the day. And she wants your help.

A friend, formerly a Black Country girl but now resident in Devon, came to visit just before Christmas. “For all the years you've lived here, nothing has really ever happened, has it?” she observed.

As we were seeing her to her car, we became aware of a police car skewed across the top of road and another, in similar pose, blocking off the bottom. Then the pounding of feet, as a copper fled breathily by.

Seconds later, three officers loomed at our door and asked if they could get to the back. We let them through, dissuaded them from kicking down the fence by producing a key to the gate and watched as they caught their suspect in the alleyway at the side of our house.

All very exciting! A chase and arrest right in front of us. And a bit puzzling mind, because we later heard that this chap had been reported peering into houses to see what was under the Christmas trees.

Unfortunately for him, he didn't appear to be as bright as his torch, because apparently he'd selected mostly Muslim households. Ho! Ho! Ho! Indeed.

So nothing ever happens around here, eh? Talk about famous last words! Things are beginning to happen, actually, it's just that the residents aren't particularly keen on what is unfolding.

On the face of it, our street is a typical suburban one: a mix of architectural styles and dates to match the spread of races, colours and creeds; various occupations, manual to professional, day and night; assortments of ages, religions and sexual orientations and diverse family organisations.

All human life is here. And everybody knows somebody else: neighbours will chat, even socialise, and introduce people to other people. It's a nice street and, considering it's so close to the town centre, quite quiet.

We like it here and that's why people have stayed so long (almost 40 years in several cases) and why some residents have even moved house within the street.

But our little idyll is being eroded. Noisy private renters are moving in, thinking it's ok to have loud, drunken parties where the language through the open windows is enough to make your hair curl. And there have been a series of burglaries, bumping up the cost of household insurance and making us twitchy about being seen bringing new things into the home.

Sadly, for a lot of us, that is increasingly the norm.

But that's not the real menace. The real threat to our way of life is far more frightening, far more difficult to deal with, the scourge of modern society: drugs.

At first, the muffled reports of dealing related to night-time, spotted in the early hours by shift workers returning to their beds. The dim street lighting, the choice of exits from the street, the alleyways separating the blocks of houses were enticements for dealers and users, providing excellent cover.

Observations were reported and the community struggled for years to get anything done. Residents began, reluctantly, to leave. And then we found someone who would listen and organised a regular patrol and the pushing stopped, or, at least, moved on. And the ‘For Sale' boards came down.

But recently, there's been a more sinister twist: regular open dealing, on the streets, in broad daylight. If you're not forced to witness it, that's one thing - but right under your nose, outside your house, in front of your kids is a completely different matter altogether.

The unrest amongst residents is stirring and the sale boards are returning. That's having a distinctly depressing effect on the neighbourhood.

We're losing our friends, our good, reliable, responsible neighbours who look out for each other and keep an eye on our homes and feed our pets whilst we're away.

We eye strangers with suspicion and make mental notes of unfamiliar vehicles. We're much more wary of what we say outside on the step and walk down the street with door keys at the ready.

It hadn't used to be like this and shouldn't be like this, but what do we do? We've tried the usual channels and met with the usual lack of interest. It's ‘common' and preventative measures ‘cost time and money and manpower.' Vigilantism is not an option. What's left?

We don't want our quiet little street where nothing much ever happens to be turned into a known venue for drug dealing and drug consumption. We don't want our residents, our children, and our pets to be put at risk. We don't want the value of our homes to plummet.

All we want is for a nice, quiet life, where we can get on with things in peace. Any ideas?

Have you lived in a street with open drug dealing? How do you sort it out? Leave a comment on our messageboard.

Leave a comment or raise new issues on The Stirrer message board.

©2006 The Stirrer