TEMPORARY safety measures at a block of flats in South Tyneside are ‘too little, too late’ say elderly residents who have been left without on-site security staff.
Pensioners in Durham Court, Hebburn, say they are living in fear after their concierge system was centralised in South Shields – instead of watchmen being just a few yards away.
Since the changes, residents, who are aged up to 103, say they have had to deal with troublesome youths and drunks, plus fire alarms being set off.
At the weekend, police were called after a man was glassed inside one of the flats.
A packed emergency meeting on Tuesday night heard residents voice concerns about how their own intercoms were broken and too quiet for them to vet outside visitors.
Deputy council leader, Coun Alan Kerr, who chaired the meeting, promised there would be security staff present at the building on weekend evenings until the intercom system was fixed.
There’s also a proposal to install another CCTV camera in the community room – if residents approve.
However, many of the South Tyneside Homes (STH) tenants don’t feel this is enough.
Resident Peter Tallack, 67, said: “Basically, what people want is a security guard on duty 24 hours a day, like we used to have.
“We collectively pay about £1,100 a week for the concierge system. This money could easily be used to employ two or three people to carry out eight-hour shifts.
“While we appreciate the council and STH are attempting to do something about this problem, but I think it’s a case of the horse already having bolted. It’s too little too late.
“What good is it having someone sitting in South Shields viewing our CCTV camera in Hebburn?”
The concierge system was moved in October due to IT requirements, without residents – who pay £13 a week for the service – being consulted.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We are currently experiencing problems with the volume control of the intercom system at Durham Court.
“While we work with the manufacturers to resolve this issue, we will have security staff on duty on weekend evenings to reassure residents.
“We would remind residents not to allow anyone access to the block unless they are known to them.”
On the evening of Saturday, February 9, a fire alarm blared for three hours when youths smashed emergency panels after gaining access to the 18-storey building.
Last Saturday, at 2pm, police arrested two people on suspicion of assault after a man was allegedly glassed inside a flat on the building’s 14th floor.
The pair were later released without any further action being taken.
A police spokesman said: “At 2.04pm on Saturday, a report was received that a man had suffered injuries at Durham Court.
“He received hospital treatment for swelling and minor cuts to his head. Two people were arrested but have since been released with no further action.
“Extensive enquiries were carried out and no complaint has been made.”
PENSIONERS believe ‘younger’ residents are contributing to the tower block’s anti-social problems
Once Durham Court was aimed at pensioners and seen as a retirement residence.
The age was later relaxed to over-50s, but residents claim there’s now some flats occupied by people in their forties.
One resident said: “This was always a place for the elderly. You had to be over 60 to live here, then they reduced it.
“Now I’m not really sure what the limit is, as there are people clearly in their 40s, perhaps even younger here.
“Generally, older people don’t have their friends coming to call on them, and they’re certainly not getting drunk during the day – but this is what’s happening and it’s making many of us feel very vulnerable.
“A few weeks ago a nurse was too scared to get into a lift because of the drunks who were already in it.”
John Musson, director of housing for South Tyneside Homes said: “Many years ago, Durham Court was a part-sheltered accommodation, with certain flats allocated to applicants of pensionable age.
“This restriction was reviewed and, under the council’s policy, we allocate both one and two-bedroomed flats to people aged 50 years and over.”