Published: 00:01, 19 August 2017
People have spoken of their fear and disgust as gangs of men regularly get into their block of flats to take drugs then defecate and urinate on the floor.
Long-suffering residents at Gravesham Court, Clarence Row, Gravesend, have found discarded needles and drugs paraphernalia crafted from plastic bottles on stairs, in corridors and communal areas.
They have heard people fighting and screaming and even caught one couple having sex on the stairs.
More than 20 residents, in their early 20s to retirement age, met in the common room after feeling neither Gravesham council nor the police had helped them.
Ruby Murty, 73, lives on one of the bottom three floors, which is sheltered accommodation for elderly and disabled people.
She said: “Sometimes you can hear people fighting and screaming. There’s excrement, urine, needles and sick. They spread it up the walls and down the handrail on the stairs. It’s terrible.
“They go in the chute rooms, where we go to put our rubbish in the chutes and they’re lying there, on drugs, with candles lit – we’re not meant to have candles. People throw things out of the windows – drugs, televisions, furniture, it’s like a rubbish dump.
“The door to the outside is broken and you don’t know who’s out there about to come in. You’re either falling over somebody or stepping in sick. This isn’t a home, this is getting like a ghetto.”
Dorothy Chambers, 77, lives on the upper floors, a mix of council and private accommodation and is often too scared to leave her flat.
The retired brewery worker said: “I’m frightened. Sometimes I go to put my rubbish out and there are people lying there. I just take it back to my flat.
"I’m not going into the chute room when they’re in there. I lock my front door as soon as I get inside – I shouldn’t have to do that.”
CCTV cameras were installed covering part of the block a few years ago and a security guard monitors the block several days a week but residents say this has not solved the problem.
Residents believe some of the intruders are either let in or sneak in when a door is opened.
Paulette Giddings, 74, lives in sheltered accommodation elsewhere and is chairman of a residents’ forum for all such accommodation in the borough.
She said: “Residents have found needles on the floor and they’ve seen people having sex on the stairs. It’s absolutely disgusting and it’s been going on for five or six years.
“Other sheltered housing blocks have their problems but there’s nothing quite like this. There have been plenty of promises but nothing is being done.”
A husband and father in his 20s, who lives on the upper floors and asked not to be named, said dogs were as much of a problem as people. He said: “They wee and poo in the corridor. The smell is disgusting.
“People sleep in the emergency stairwell and are using drugs and then they go to the toilet there. I feel I’m not safe at night time and my partner doesn’t go out at night.
"People ring on the buzzer at midnight or 1am and say they have a delivery or they’re a police officer to get let in. I pay my rent and my council tax but the council doesn’t look after us. These people live like animals.”
Brian Bolton, 77, a retired mental health nurse, also lives on the upper floors and has witnessed people climbing into the building through first floor windows.
He said: “After about 6pm they all start wandering around in gangs shouting ‘let me in’. They’re all men, probably in their 30s and 40s.
"These men smoke cannabis in the chute rooms, you can smell it. There’s silver foil on the shelves from drug taking and they plug their mobile phones in and use the council’s electricity.
"I told one bloke to get out and he just went upstairs to a different floor.”
Mr Bolton said the chute rooms used to be locked overnight at weekends but as they were vandalised during the week it was deemed pointless.
"Neighbouring block Homemead has suffered similar problems and some residents went to the meeting at Gravesham Court to express their concerns.
Avtar Singh, 63, said up to six rough sleepers staying in the block had propped open fire exits, blocked emergency stairs and smoked in chute rooms.
A Gravesham council spokesman said: “The council has been and is continuing to work closely with its Community Safety Unit, its housing department, the police and the homeless charity Porchlight to address the issues at Gravesham Court.
“Firm action will be taken for those who continue to behave in an anti-social way.
"The council is committed to tackling this problem and other measures are being worked on, which should help in addressing the matter.”
Insp Pat Holmes, from the police’s Gravesham Community Safety Unit, said: “We are aware of concerns raised by residents relating to anti-social behaviour and drug misuse in Clarence Row and have sent officers as part of their usual patrols.
"Where necessary these patrols have moved on individuals. We also work closely with partner organisations, such as the borough council and homeless charities to provide the necessary support to those who need it.
“I would encourage anyone concerned about anti-social behaviour to call us on 101, or 999 in an emergency.”
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