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Security guards for Southend troubled tower blocks
SECURITY guards look set to be brought in to patrol Southend’s tower blocks after an Echo investigation revealed crime is rife and homeless people are sleeping in stairwells.
The Echo last month exposed how easy it was to get into the four blocks, Malvern, Pennine, Quantock and Chiltern, which make up the Queensway Estate.
We found evidence of drug use and homeless people using the stairwells as a makshift hostel.
Now councillors believe there is a “strong case” to bring in security patrols to make residents’ lives easier.
David Norman, a Labour councillor who led a scrutiny report on what to do about the blocks, said: “There is a strong case for putting security on the blocks and this is the residents’ first priority.
“There is a good case to go forward, but the cost implications need to be carefully looked at. Basically, we are looking at security guards on the doors or some form of security presence in the blocks.”
Night patrols: Coming to Quantock
Ian Gilbert, also a Labour councillor, said councillors decided to act following the Echo’s probe.
He said: “There is no agreement yet, but a pilot is being looked at for patrols during the night, rather than guards stationed in each block. It would obviously be expensive, but if it can reduce vandalism, crime and access it is worth it.”
During our probe, we were able to get into all four blocks due to faulty communal door locks. Inside, we found a homeless man on the stairwell of a block who left behind a used needle and blood.
Other stairwells were littered with drinks cans, cigarette butts and pools of urine.
There was evidence of other rough sleepers, including a sleeping bag in one block.
Open sesame: reporter opens supposedly locked door
Creature comforts: Sleeping bag stored on stairwell for next night
Discarded: Strong cider can left on landing
The Echo has been campaigning to improve security at the tower blocks since the murder of tenant Christopher Ryan, 45, in November 2011.
A year later, CCTV was installed in lifts and communal areas.
A woman living in Pennine flats, who would not be named, said: “We have been asking for this for years, so I won’t believe it until it happens.
They would need at least two guards or even with a dog.
“They have tried so much over the years, but nothing has worked. We had the CCTV installed, but no one monitors it, it is only if something happens that the police look at it.”
A South Essex Homes spokesman said: “South Essex Homes is currently looking at neighbourhood patrols in dialogue with Southend Council.
We are liaising with other organisations who have utilised this type of security measure and will make further announcements in due course.”
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