Edinburgh housing estate residents ‘living in fear’ and paying police for extra protection
It is like a scene from the black comedy TV hit Shameless – only this is all too real for the vulnerable residents of one Edinburgh housing estate. And there is certainly nothing funny about it.
A television hurled from a top floor flat. A disabled resident forced to cower in their flat while the door is battered by a deranged neighbour with a hammer. A heroin user ramming the building with his mobility scooter.
The residents of Westfield Avenue in Gorgie say they have put up with years of drug dealing, robberies and fire raising, often literally on their front doorsteps – but the situation is coming to a head.
Things have got so bad that the landlords have resorted to paying the police for extra patrols.
In the street, whose residents include many vulnerable and disable people, there is a growing sense of frustration. In one shocking incident caught on video, a relative of one disabled victim felt they had no choice but to take the law into their own hands by punching down a suspected thief.
One resident, who asked not to be named due to fears for their safety, said: “We’re living in fear when any house becomes empty, who are they going to put in there?
“We shouldn’t be living like this. A disabled man has just moved in next to a crack den – God help him.
“It’s horrendous what we’re going through – it beggars belief.”
Residents say they have endured years of anti-social behaviour including drunken fights in the car park and addicts smoking crack in back gardens.
One frightened tenant told how one first floor flat was firebombed with a welly full of petrol shoved through the letterbox.
Firefighters had to rescue two disabled residents from the property in the middle of the night as the blaze raged last October.
Brazen dealers peddle drugs in broad daylight while there were also reports of robberies, beatings and overdoses.
One 55-year-old resident told how he spent his £36,000 life savings on a quarter share of his flat and pays £330-a-month rent.
Others took up similar part ownership deals and have been left livid by rent hikes each year of around £15-a-month.
The resident said: “We’ve truly had enough of living with constant drug dealing, thefts, overdoses and death here yet it never seems to get cleared up.
“I’ve argued for years that very vulnerable people shouldn’t be housed beside these addicts yet none have been evicted, instead just given warnings about their anti-social behaviour.
“We’re having to pay for more police with increased rent while those responsible aren’t paying any rent or council tax – it’s disgusting.”
He told how last Friday, a disabled woman had her handbag stolen, triggering a street fight between a relative and the suspect.
According to the resident, just the week before, a shifty-looking bloke was seen prowling round the back of an 88-year-old woman’s flat.
Back in October 2017, he said a drug addict robbed a blind man of his wallet and within hours rampaged round the first floor brandishing a hammer.
“Luckily he was stopped when he went to attack a man with Down’s Syndrome while his carer was arriving,” he added.
He said a known drug dealer duped her way into another blind man’s flat before trying to break into his safe.
Edinburgh Central MSP and Holyrood Tory leader Ruth Davidson has now taken up her constituents’ cause.
“A concerned resident came to my regular constituency surgery to discuss issues of drug dealing, violence, fire raising and anti social behaviour at Westfield Avenue,” said Ms Davidson.
“His concern is chiefly for his neighbours who include a number of disabled and vulnerable residents.
“The catalogue of incidents is appalling. Residents have resorted to taking videos of some of the events and they have to be seen to be believed.
“My office is in contact with the Housing Association to ensure greater safety and protection for those most at risk.”
Landlords Dunedin Canmore parachuted in six undercover cops as part of a police partnership to help crackdown on loutish behaviour.
A Dunedin Canmore spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports of anti-social behaviour in the area and have been working closely with the community and our partners over the past year to tackle these.
“If any tenant was convicted of crimes such as drug dealing we would take immediate legal action to seek eviction.”
Police chiefs appealed for anyone witnessing trouble on the estate to shop the perpetrators to officers.
Chief Inspector Scott Richardson, area commander for South West Edinburgh, said: “I would like to reassure members of our community that officers have been actively responding to concerns raised by residents on Westfield Avenue. We work alongside partners, including the Wheatley Group, to tackle these issues.
“If anyone has any information regarding criminality in their area, please contact us on 101.” Witnesses to any crime can also make an anonymous report to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.