Drug taking in back lanes and dumped beds - Campaign to tackle issues on 12 streets of Sunderland's Southwick begins
A three-month effort to drive down the risk of fires and bad behaviour and turn around poor housing conditions in private rental homes is under way in a Sunderland community.
Southwick is at the centre of the campaign, which will also target flytipping, littering and dog fouling.
Led by Sunderland City Council, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police and Gentoo, it will cover 12 streets across the area.
However, residents do not believe it will get to the root of the issues.
The streets targeted over the scheme will be Tennyson Street, Cicero Terrace, Julius Caesar Street, Churchhill Street, Ridley Street, Gochen Street, Bryon Road, Chatterton Street, Kismet Street, Gordon Terrace, Cato Street and Beaumont Street.
It could then be rolled out to other areas.
Councillor Alex Samuels, who represents the ward on the council, has said the project is part of a wider plan to improve the area.
She said: "When we've spoken to residents at meetings, when we've been out knocking on doors and out on the streets, flytipping, particularly around Ridley Street in the back lanes, is a significant problem and I drive around here every day and report it.
"We know it's a problem and we've been working with the fire service and other councillors to improve this area and with the residents to take pride in it.
"These particular 12 streets have been identified and for me, this is the start, so we have got a lot happening, with agencies coming together, see more education out there and then take it out to improve other areas."
Among the residents unconvinced the scheme will work is on 47-year-old, who lives in Ridley Street, who says she has problems with youngsters hanging around outside her house, rubbish being dropped in her garden, spitting and verbal abuse, as well as flytipping at the back of her home.
"We chase them off my wall, but half the time they don't seem to take any notice," she said.
"The problem with the flytipping is from the bedsits, you get on the phone to the civic centre and they don't do anything about it.
"When the schools come out, all the litter is dropped.
"They should put up bins along here, that would help.
"I don't think what they're doing will work."
A 28-year-old mum-of-two, who hives in Gochen Street, said she has seen children aged from 14 smoking cannabis on the street and is also fed up with the flytipping in the area.
She said: "I've seen drug taking in the back lanes an my daughter plays in the back garden, but she can smell it and she's only seven and is asking me what it is, so I bring her in.
"I scream and shout at them to go away.
"I've spent a lot of money doing up my back garden, but we can't use it.
"I'm sick of seeing beds, mattresses, furniture dumped and it just looks ugly.
"They need to make regular patrols to keep them away."
Steve Burdis, group manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said the team would be working to encourage people to clear the back lanes of over-filled bins and dumped waste, which creates a risk of arson.
"For the fire service, leaving bins out causes concern because although it might not be deliberate, sometimes they are accidentally set fire to them and that is a danger because we can't be at two incidents at once.
"It can cause damage to properties and can also cost the council and residents.
"It's essential you take care when you put out your bins out that they are not overfilled or next to your property because that could be a danger and could spread to your property.
"The contaminants that come off the bins could be really dangerous to people, we don't know what's in them, you don't know what's in them.
"The perpetrators who do set fire to these bins are also putting themselves in real harm but also the firefighters that attend these incidents."
He said great strides had been made with the community after last Bonfire Night, when crews were attacked when they arrived to put out car fires which had been started on land off Cato Street.
Mr Burdis added: "From November 5, we have had no further attacks on firefighters within Southwick and the fire service itself had worked really hard to build links with the community, not that the bridges were really burned because there were problems with certain individuals.
"People have come to support us and people have come to the station to bring us gifts, which is really appreciated by the firefighters.
"We recently had a car wash at Marley Park Fire Station, which was really well supported by the community.
"People are welcome to attend at any time at the fire station to see us and ask for advice."
Acting Sergeant Peter Baker, of Northumbria Police's Southwick Neighbourhood Policing Team, added: "We will be looking at antisocial behaviour and trying to disperse those causing problems, and also working with the fire brigade and the council.
"We need people to report issues so we can do something about them, otherwise we can't do anything about it."
The team has said Snyp - Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project - and the nearby boxing club all offer sessions for youngsters to join, with the force's own cadet programme open to students in year 10.
Those who have received a reprimand or warning can still sign up to become a volunteer.
On a hit list of actions for the three months is: *fire safety checks *council environmental enforcement and litter patrols *twice weekly police community support officer patrols *an increase in the number of estate walkabouts by Gentoo *patrols to identify waste in gardens *housing enforcement activity *a deep clean of the area by the council's environmental services *more drop in sessions People are being encouraged to report issues to the numbers below and they can be made anonymously and information will be treated in the strictest confidence. *Sunderland City Council - (0191) 520 5550 or online at www.sunderland.gov.uk/report-it *Northumbria Police - 101 *Gentoo – 0191 525 5000 or www.gentoogroup.com *Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service – (0191) 444 1500 or online at www.twfire.gov.uk