Special report: Elderly at Grantham’s Riverside sheltered housing ‘scared to death’ of drug deals
After hearing of suspected drug activity around the Riverside housing complex, reporter Judith Hawkins has been investigating the problem, and why reports are not getting through to the police and the council.
Drug deals are regularly being witnessed around a Grantham sheltered housing complex, the Journal has discovered.
However despite hearing accounts of ‘weekly’ drug activity around the Riverside complex on Welham Street, not only from concerned residents but from council sources, there appears to be a breakdown in reporting the incidents to police and South Kesteven District Council.
Riverside resident Peter Clawson has spoken out on what he has often and continues to see, saying: “I only have to look out my window to see it. I see a man walking along the river bank making calls on his phone and doing deals with others who pass by.
“He’ll wait around pretending to feed the ducks, and then if somebody comes past he knows I see a bag of drugs exchanged. What do people think it is, flour?”
He added: “And then there’s the unauthorised cars which pull up into the car park - they get out and you can smell it.”
Mr Clawson says he has told police and the area’s PCSOs about it, but that those involved know when to turn up - after they have finished their patrols.
Moreover fellow Riverside resident and district councillor Jock Kerr is also aware of the problem. Mr Kerr said: “I have seen it myself, and have had homeless people come to my door with drug issues. I have been raising the issue for a long time to other councillors, but nothing has been done. It doesn’t help that we don’t have a warden anymore.”
These concerns were echoed by all of the residents the Journal has spoken to when visiting the complex, which is home to predominately those aged 60 and above. Many were willing to talk about what they’d seen, but for safety reasons preferred to remain anonymous.
One of the female tenants we spoke to gave exactly the same description as Mr Clawson, saying: “Some guy walks along the river bank smoking, and you know what the smell is.” A man who has lived at Riverside with his wife for seven years, said: “There is definitely something going on around here, you see it all the time, they don’t even try to hide it,” and even indicated various properties they believe are involved.
He added: “It’s being going on the whole time I’ve lived here.”
An older lady who has mobility and breathing difficulties said: “Because I’m confined for health reasons I don’t go out enough for them to bother me. But I’ve heard about them waiting around the bridge and around Welham Street. It’s good that someone is looking into it.”
In addition a SKDC employee who has also asked that their identity is not revealed, told the Journal that they receive complaints about suspected drug use and dealing on a ‘weekly basis’.
The person said: “Residents tell me that they have seen drug dealing in the car park, and at the rear of houses. They can smell the drugs. I get complaints about it on a weekly basis. It is an issue, absolutely.”
These were just some of the comments made to the Journal during our investigation, yet they do not correlate with figures provided by both the council and Lincolnshire Police on the number of reports from the complex in relation to drug use, as obtained via Freedom of Information requests.
According to Lincolnshire Police’s data, there have been no calls made to the force from residents at the complex in relation to drug use in the past three years.
At the same time the council was also asked for figures through a Freedom of Information request to see if the problems had been reported solely to them. Their statistics show that the last recorded complaints of alleged drug use were in 2012, although, when pressed on the issue again following the FOI, they did reveal that one drugs allegation had been made since by a resident which is being investigated.
Hence a very contradictory picture is emerging - just speaking to residents during one morning garnered more reports of drug activity than those received by the council and police combined in the past three years.
“It’s because the residents are scared to death - it’s very difficult to get them to speak about it because they are scared those involved might react if they know who they are,” explained Mr Clawson.
This prompted him to write about their fears in a Journal comment piece in November, stating: ‘I know that Grantham is awash with drugs, despite official denials’.
Asked how neighbours reacted, Mr Clawson said: “I had a lot of them come up to me and say I’d put into words what they feel they are unable to say.”
* ‘Regular patrols by officers’
Grantham chief inspector Chris Davison said: “As with all areas of the town, the local police and council work together to tackle issues of anti-social behaviour and crime. In general, we respond to reports provided to us by the public in order to inform where to place our officers and PCSOs to address issues of drug dealing, associated crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The Riverside complex and the nearby riverside are both areas which are subject to regular patrols by officers. Where we obtain information, for example, regarding anti-social behaviour or drug-related activity in an area, we work very closely with our colleagues from SKDC, and in the worst cases SKDC will evict problem tenants from their properties.”
He added: “Grantham, like any other town, has its fair share of drugs issues. Recent action, taken by the police, has seen a reduction in the availability of certain types of drugs in the local area. The Police will continue with its mandate from the public to tackle drugs issues in Grantham on their behalf. This will take place in the form of continued arrests, use of search warrants and disruption tactics where applicable.”
* SKDC respond to complaints
Asked about the concerns raised by council tenants, portfolio holder for good housing, Coun Terl Bryant, said: “I don’t believe there is a heavy duty drugs problem not being addressed. We do have officers who deal with any issues and we are in close contact with the police. We work very effectively with other agencies.
“Residents can contact me or speak to the housing officers. The information on who to contact is in their tenancy handbook.”
Interim manager for housing management, Paul Thompson, added: “We take complaints about anti-social behaviour or criminal activity involving drugs extremely seriously, and have in the past taken effective legal action where this has been evidenced. We have received one recent report from a resident since the Freedom of Information Request which was responded to on December 17 last year relating to allegations which are currently being investigated.”
* Who can you report it to?
Ch Isp Chris Davison has also given details of who to contact for both those concerned about drug activity, and those suffering from drug addiction.
“Grantham has good access to help for people suffering from drug addictions, with both NHS DART (drug and alcohol referral team) and Addaction available within the town.
“Concerned residents can report information to Lincolnshire Police by calling 101 on their phone, speaking to their local police or PCSO, or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously.”
Paul Thompson, SKDC’s interim manager for housing management adds: “All reports of drug use and anti-social behaviour should first be directed to police by calling 101 and then ourselves.
“There are several ways to report issues either through our housing officers, calling us on 01476 40 60 80 or emailing email@example.com
* What do you think? Is there a drugs issue in the area where you live? What is being done about it? What should be done about it? Get in touch - all comments will be kept anonymous if requested, but you must supply your name and a contact number.
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