Thursday, August 06, 2009

Neighbourhood Watched: Keeping the Peace – Episode 1

I’ve just watched on BBC IPlayer the excellent new Reality TV documentary on the working lives of “front line” Housing Association staff in North West England. It is interesting that “Inside Housing” describe the staff as being “Front Line”. I must admit it is a term that I catch myself using as well but I don’t think is really that appropriate a term. Housing staff are not “at war” with their residents. Even though admittedly it can seem like that at times.

The first part of the programme must have driven the image conscious Press & Media teams of the Housing Associations featured to despair. Since it was a very bleak and dispiriting account of endless and mindless anti-social behaviour. Aggressive yobs and their massive fighting dogs; a seemingly completely hopeless textbook dysfunctional family who are surely bound to be evicted; a sudden death; fly tips with the obligatory decomposing dead rat as well as the stereotypical (pardon the pun) young “heavy metal fan” who thought that playing music “24/7” in his flat at a level that needed TV subtitles to make out what he was saying - was somehow “normal”?

However as the programme progressed the real stars of the show helped turn it around. The “ordinary” housing officers dealing with extraordinary and difficult situations with incredible calm determination and perseverance. The foul mouthed threatening thug with the dogs was forced to move his animals (I hope he was reported to the Police for public order offences towards Julie – I suspect probably not), the “family from hell” were cautioned but ended up helping out with an estate gardening project and I think the wannabe “bat out of hell” is now listening to his music on headphones after being most severely told off. Local residents being prepared to publicly “tell us as it is” reminded me why people are pro active on policing and very tough on crime in housings estates. Since it is ordinary working class people not the rich or the middle classes who by far suffer the most from crime and disorder. We should never ever forget this.

This is the first of 4 programmes – you can see this programme on BBC I Player (this is the first time I have used this service and was most impressed how easy it was and how good quality the service was) until the next episode which is on Tuesday 11 August 22.35 (not Northern Ireland or Wales).

I do hope that the programme in the future will include the back office “stars” of housing services that provide the often unnoticed crucial call centre, admin and reception services. Without them supporting us we can’t do nothing.


Charlie Marks said...

"it is ordinary working class people [...] who by far suffer the most from crime and disorder."

The same goes for pollution - and not just the noise kind. When I was a kid the fumes from a local factory were particularly unpleasant and wouldn't have been tolerated on the other side of town! (Sadly, this plant was shipped overseas, no doubt to a place where environmental regulations are non-existent...)

As for "front line" it's a term used in education, healthcare, and policing to distinguish (wrongly!) from the supposedly useless back-office staff. In television this is especially reflected - there's lots of necessary but undramatic work that is rarely featured in cops 'n' docs reality tv. (Even in the context of the production staff of tv programmes you'll note how the end-credits are scrunched up and talked-over.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you sucked up too many toxic fumes Charlie which has warped your perspective. It also follows that it's ordinary working class people that commit most of the anti social crime. What happened to "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime"?

John Gray said...

Hi Charlie

Fair points and RP's can do much, much more for the enviorment but it is a core activity here and now to do all they can to stop the miseary and unfairness of ASB.

Hi Anon

and your point is? the Middle class don't commit crime? All of the working class should be treated as "suspect"?


Anonymous said...

Well you stated that most working class areas have most of the crime - unless a lot of Middle and upper class criminals are visiting the working class neighbourhoods - then it follows that the working classes are committing most of the crime - wallowing around in a cess pit of their own making!

Charlie Marks said...

There are plenty of ruling class criminals about, anonymous - alas, their crimes are not technically crimes...

A cesspit of our own making!?

A big problem round my way is the trade in illegal drugs and the burglary and mugging associated with it. You can bet that the drug lords at the top aren't living locally, mind.

Stod LA said...

As a former housing officer who worked for one of the landlords in this program.
I can confirm that I was FRONT LINE staff because i was the first point of contact for the residents on my estate, not because we was at war?! how stupid.
Also, crime does happen probably more on these estates.
Which crime is worse? the thief stealing to feed his family or the Millionaire CEO of a bank who steals from the thousands of people to feed his greed??
Lets all be mature about it and keep the childish, ignorant tit for tat comments to a minimum.

John Gray said...

Hi Stod LA

You may not realise that "Front line" is a specific militery term especially from the tenches in the First World War. It is in my view not an appropriate term to use when describing the provision of services to the public in modern day Brtain!

There is a troy troll who has been causing mischief with his or her comments (I am sure its a bloke) which Charlie has quite properly and politely responded to.