Monday 30 January 2012

The Concrete Jungle

"19 year old male, ? Heroin overdose, history of violence *LOCATION MATCH"

First job of the day, it was early on a sunday morning, we were tired and a tad grouchy. As soon as the job came down our radio started ringing.

"Don't approach, police on route, the patient is violent. Hold for police"

Dur!! As if we were going to be cavalier.  Location match is a red flag. Previous crews have flagged the address as dangerous so either he has been violent or someone in the address has been violent. We would be waiting and then hiding behind lots of police officers! We arrived at the same time so grabbed our stuff and followed them up. It was in the middle of a council estate and one the countries largest. It contains almost 2000 homes and although still popular with the elderly residents, due to schemes like 'care in the community', problems came to fruition when large volumes of vulnerable and disadvantaged people became isolated from society. Concrete jungles like this are vast. This particular one has over 6000 residents and takes 20 minutes to walk from one side to another. The road network through the estate is scattered and complex making navigating for us and patrolling for police extremely difficult. In all seriousness the area is simply too large to police effectively and as such it became a breeding ground for crime, drugs and antisocial behaviour. On an estate where deprivation and violence are commonplace, hopeless life is the norm leaving children without ambition and little prospect of bucking the trend.

As a result, we end up with our patient. A 19 year old male, high on drugs, unemployed with a criminal record longer than the ancient scrolls of Jerusalem. He had no education, his mum was an alcoholic and his dad was in prison. His 3 brothers were all in the same boat as him. We entered the block via the large metal door, a small window hole showed the remnants of the glass that had once been there, bloodied tissues lied in pools of urine and tinfoil stained with crack drifted around the stairwell like autumn leaves. As we climbed the stairs, passing the masses of graffiti we could could hear the commotion. He was smashing up the flat. He was high on MDMA and Trips. He was hallucinating and being violent towards neighbours and his family. We didn't get near him. The police brought him to us already restrained. There wasn't much for us to do other than monitor him. He needed to be sedated at the hospital so for us it was a bit of a non job but it highlighted the problems we, the police, the government and the residents of council estates face.

This job was symptomatic of the problems that are common place all over the country. There are over 6 million people living on council estates in Britain and a large percentage of these people are living in properties that are rundown, isolated and abandoned. In the heart of every thriving city in Britain is a second city. A city hidden from visitors. A city hidden from public view. A city the government would like to forget. A city where more often than not, good people are kept prisoners by the fear of gang rule. And what chance do the police have? A few years ago on this estate, there were 6 officers and a sergeant dedicated to patrolling the area. Admittedly that isn't much for the size of it but dropping it to just 2 beat officers under the Tories has seen a lot of the good work undone. Despite the £12.5 billion flurry of initiative under recent governments promising the 'big society', promising community improvement, promising re-galvanisation, promising criminal justice and promising more policing the mish-mash of projects has produced very few results and have made little to no dent in the growing level of violence and drug abuse in deprived urban areas. Street violence, drug dealing, robbery and burglary have risen and the much vaunted Anti-Social-Behaviour-Orders have become a prize more than punishment.

These estates cause a huge financial burden on the tax payer in both policing costs, medical cost and benefit costs. Unemployment is high, benefit fraud is rife and crime is huge. With unemployment so high it is of little surprise that poor diets and abuse of drugs and alcohol cause a strain on ambulance trusts and local hospitals. This job alone required 12 police officers and an ambulance, let alone the hospital stay and the administration costs of sending him back to prison for breaching his bail. Then there are the costs of keeping him in prison. Multiply this un-isolated job by every estate the country over and it is painfully clear why a decade of broken promises and failed costly initiatives have put the country in a state of economic fragility. Fix housing, fix policing and fix the benefit system and you'll go some way to fix these communities. Or instead we could spend £10 billion on hosting the Olympic, allow bankers multi-million pound bonuses from tax payers profits and fund ailing countries in the Eurozone. The problems faces by communities all over the country can be summed up by one word: Poverty. Poverty of income, poverty of opportunity and poverty of expectation. Poverty is a term we use for 3rd world countries but it is a real problem that exists in our own country. A country billed as 7th richest in the world. Something isn't right is it?

Poverty in the UK

  • Worst in the EU, longest working hours, lowest social spending
  • By EU decency threshold the minimum wage should be £7.87. It's £4.98
  • Three times more UK children fall beneath the poverty threshold than in 1970
  • The base wage for the bottom tenth of the population is worse than 30 years ago (relative)
Crime in the UK
  • 1% of the population suffers 59% of all violent crime
  • 2% of the population suffers 41% of all property crime
  • Most criminals commit crime within 1.8 miles of their home. 92% of these criminals live on council estates consumed by poverty and criminalised by war against drugs
  • A lone 18 year-old woman with a child is five times more likely than average to suffer from crime

Homes in the UK

  • Almost 6 million people - 10% of the population live in Britain's 2.9 million council homes
  • A further 3 million live in homes that have left council control since 1988 through 'Right to buy schemes'
  • Since the public sector reforms in the 70s many traditional jobs done by council tenants have been contracted to private companies making tenants less secure and worse paid. 62% earn less, 73% have fewer holidays, 53% have worse sick pay, 51% have worse pensions and 44% have less security
The longer these council estates are left to rot, the bigger the social disparity will become, the higher the crime rates will be and worse off this country as a whole will be. Lets get our own house in order before we try and fix others.


  1. I recently had to move to an adapted council house after renting privately all my adult life, I have to say getting the council to come out and actually FIX any of the many problems is like pulling teeth!
    A private landlord is governed by laws to maintain their property (& the ones I lived in actually saw that it made sense to them to do so) whereas the council seems oblivious. We have a (badly) adapted bathroom where there's a 1/4 inch dip halfway across the floor & the shower leaks, my husband has fallen several times & at 6'1" isn't exactly easy to help up..... It's been like that for a year and that's AFTER they 'fixed' it. Grrrr!

  2. This says everything thing that needs to be said about modern Britain ! Shame that Cameron and Co are not listening !


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