Estate's task force creator says: "We're not vigilantes"
11:40am Thursday 20th September 2012 in News
A “residents’ task force” is to being formed in a troubled estate in an attempt to stamp-out myriad antisocial behaviour problems.
The initiative in Roehampton’s Alton estate is being led by Ben Perl who started a similar project in the Townsmead estate in Fulham where he claims a team of up to eight volunteers successfully dealt with “social obstacles”.
He attended a community meeting of tenants at Allbrook House last week where he explained his idea and heard their concerns about vandalism, drug-taking, sexual activity and binge drinking.
Mr Perl, a property surveyor, said he was first alerted to the problems on the estate at a meeting in Roehampton organised by charity Regenerate in the summer.
He said: “Having heard stories about different types of antisocial behaviour, I felt I wanted to try and replicate our success in Fulham.
“Although I don’t live in the estate, I have lived in Roehampton for three years and recognise what needs to be done.
“We heard stories of crime-related antisocial behaviour in the stairwells and around the blocks, something that will only get worse as we approach winter, but also of a lack of action from the authorities.
“The first thing to point out is that we are not vigilantes. We are not aggressive or violent, we simply want to be a visible, friendly presence.
“We wear yellow hi-vis jackets and our aim is to firstly be there for residents to speak to with any issues but also to try and deter any problems without confrontation.”
Mr Perl, who lives in Medfield Street, is now hoping that concerned residents will step forward to join the task force.
He said: “I hope the police can see we are a force for good but we want to ultimately work with them and help them.
“We have tried working with police and housing associations in the past but I think they feel we are showing up their deficiencies. Most people know they won’t respond to basic antisocial behaviour – which is where we can come in.”
Mr Perl wants to help people set up a residents’ association at Allbrook House to build self-reliance in the area.
Tanya Stanworth, from nearby Dunbridge House, said: “It’s good to see someone is trying to do something good.”
Ray Burnet, Chairman of Dwyer House Residents Association on Townmead Estate, said: “The reality is I look out of window now and there is no rubbish, no anti-social behaviour and no vandalism.
“It has wiped out all the problems and two people from Downing Street even came down to see how we did it.”
A Wandsworth Council spokesman said: “We are aware Mr Perl has previously been involved in these kind of activities elsewhere in London.
"While some people may welcome this, we do not believe the majority of people in the area support vigilante-style “patrols” because there is a risk these will create problems not solve them.”
However Police Inspector Keith Gardner was more supportive of Mr Perl's plans.
He said: “The borough welcomes the assistance of any group whose objective is to improve the area. However, all groups are expected to operate within and uphold the law.
"We would also encourage all groups to work in partnership with the Roehampton safer neighbourhood team to ensure that their proposed actions complement ongoing police activity.”
To get involved call Mr Perl on 07415 793 753.