‘It’s out of control’: Criminals take over empty Aylesbury Estate flats as residents on half-demolished estate fear for their safety

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Criminals are terrorising Aylesbury residents with anti-social behaviour in boarded up, vacant properties that police and the council are struggling to secure.

Many residents, including those suffering long-standing heating and hot water outages and leaks in their homes, are increasingly frustrated by what they say is too little action from Southwark Council and the Met to make the area safe.

As the regeneration continues apace, and more of the estate is dominated by the huge construction site, the tenants who remain say they are becoming increasingly fearful.

One claimed vacant properties in blocks in the low rises were still being broken into and taken over by squatters and ravers because they are inadequately secured by police. She said: “The police were back at one flat on the Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday – and people are still breaking in.

“We’ve been told that if we see the groups doing this not to approach them because they are dangerous.

“The housing people really need to do something about this – it’s out of control.”

Among the flats recently targeted, the News was told, was one privately owned home whose most recent tenant had passed away.

Residents, who asked not to be named due to safety fears, say the property has been vandalised and repeatedly broken into despite numerous calls to police and it even being boarded up.

In at least one case, the council has struggled to even contact a trashed property’s owner and let them know about the situation.

Eight officers were injured while recovering stolen items at an illegal lockdown party in Portland Street in the early hours of Sunday, February 28.  The police chased two robbery suspects to the address and found around 30 people breaking lockdown rules. The officers were subsequently injured in the ruckus that followed. One was knocked unconscious and another suffered a fractured hand.

It emerged that the property was being used to store stolen goods after a spate of robberies, including mobile phones, oyster cards, and credit cards.

A number of violent muggings have taken place in the surrounding area and, in a particularly serious incident, police were called to a double stabbing near East Street on last Friday, March 5.

Inspector Tom Cornish, Southwark Police’s neighbourhood inspector,   said he and his colleagues were working on a “long-term solution” with the council.

“We are very aware of  antisocial behaviour linked to a number of vacant flats in the estate and the impact on residents living nearby,” he said.

“Despite efforts to secure the flats trespassers have found means – sometimes very risky ones – of gaining entry.

“We are working with the council on a longer-term solution which will involve clearing the flats in question and enhancing security without hindering fire escape routes.”

Southwark Council’s housing chief, Cllr Stephanie Cryan, said her team were working to track down a leaseholder whose property has been repeatedly targeted and confirmed security was being installed.

“Our housing team were made aware of a seemingly abandoned leaseholder property in the Gayhurst block that was broken into and used for parties and criminal behaviour,” she said.

“We have been working with the police, firstly to shut down the activities taking place and secondly to track down the leaseholder while we make the flat secure.

“Any properties we are aware of as empty are fully boarded up and we have tightened our processes to ensure newly empty properties are made secure before they are decommissioned and evict squatters who do manage to get into empty properties.

“We have also arranged for extra wardens to be on site over the weekend and police are increasing patrols in the area as well as mobile CCTV being put in place.

“I know this has been a difficult time for neighbouring residents and I would like to reassure them that the council is doing all it can to keep the estate safe as people continue to move out as part of the regeneration.

“If anyone has any concerns they should get in touch with the housing office as soon as possible and if it is an emergency call 999.”

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