“Anti-social behaviour? You’re definitely in the right place around here,” the woman tells me, a concerned look on her face as she gathers the last of her shopping and scurries indoors.

It’s obvious from her tone, body language and her worried expression that she is not keen to be seen talking to a journalist.

I’m standing in Hamlin Gardens, one of two streets in Exeter which were in the news last week for all the wrong reasons.

Neighbourhood police, working closely with housing officers from Exeter City Council, closed down two council-owned properties – one in Carlyon Close, the other in Hamlin Gardens near Polsloe Bridge – after they were linked to the complaints about anti-social behaviour.

They will remain empty for three months as part of the order, with the closures executed on October 30 and November 18.

Residents had endured months of drug-dealing and violence, as well as ‘late night music and shouting and swearing at all hours’.

Hamlin Gardens in Exeter

Despite trying to engage with the problem tenants and involving a number of different agencies, the situation could not be resolved.

Unsurprisingly, this caused tensions to rise in the area – forcing police to act.

Or, in their own words, they had ‘no option but to take further action’.

So what is the situation like there now? Do residents feel that the problem has been resolved, or is there a wider issue of anti-social behaviour around the Polsloe area of the city?

Carlyon Close – one of two streets in Exeter which saw council-owned flats shut down by police

In the brilliant late-afternoon winter sunshine, Hamlin Gardens looks quiet and peaceful.

A stream of parents walking their children home from school pass along the adjoining Hamlin Lane as queues of rush-hour traffic start to build.

But Hamlin Gardens itself is calm. This is lockdown 2.0, and in this part of Exeter at least, it appears that people are observing the rules.

The residents I speak to are all relaxed and friendly until the issue of anti-social behaviour crops up. It is only then that the atmosphere becomes noticeably tenser.

A couple of people make it clear they do not want to share their thoughts on the matter, even with the offenders now out of the area.

Some residents remain tense at Hamlin Gardens, even with the offenders having been moved out of the area

Only one person is willing to talk to me for more than 30 seconds on the topic, and even that is under the condition of anonymity.

“There is definitely a problem with that here,” she tells me.

“I read about the closure of the flats and I think that will help, but it is bigger than just one flat so I don’t think it will stop.

“I do like living here but there is definitely a problem which needs to be looked at.”

Another woman, who has lived along the road for years, thinks the problem has become significantly worse over the course of the year.

Reports of anti-social behaviour have gone up during the coronavirus pandemic

I ask if it could be because of the coronavirus pandemic, but she tells me she isn’t sure.

Police forces across the UK have reported a steep rise in anti-social behaviour since the coronavirus pandemic began.

It is not clear if this is due to increased tensions caused by coronavirus, or because more of the low-level rules in place as a result of lockdown are being breached.

The charity Refuge, who run the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, say that calls are up 25 per cent since lockdown began.

Speaking to residents in nearby streets, it appears that the issue does not affect Polsloe as a whole.

Niki, who only wanted to give her first name, has lived just metres away on Hamlin Lane for 20 years and says there is very little trouble.

“It is a pretty quiet and safe place to live in,” she tells me.

“There was trouble a few years ago when there was a spate of break-ins in the parked cars along the road, but that’s about it.

“There is a bit of trouble now and again in the park – you see the police helicopter hovering over there quite often – but nothing much.

“There is a pub at each end and on Friday and Saturday nights you get a bit of noise from drinkers heading home, but who doesn’t make a little bit of noise after a couple of drinks?”

“There is Hamlin Gardens though…” she adds, with a knowing look.

She declines to elaborate further.

This Hamlin Gardens resident did not seemed fazed by reports of anti-social behaviour in the area…

It feels different at Carlyon Close, which is linked to Hamlin Gardens via a small footpath.

The place is genuinely quiet – there is no traffic, no pedestrians passing through and, even with Blink-182 playing quietly out of open window, you can hear the birds singing.

A couple of local residents appear genuinely surprised when I tell them that a flat on the street has been closed for three months following anti-social behaviour.

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“Around here?” One of them asks. “I hadn’t heard anything about that.”

The residents of nearby homes also appear oblivious to the presence of anti-social behaviour severe enough that the police were forced to intervene.

One man who lives on Sweetbrier Lane – a mere 30 seconds away from the problem flat – told me how much he enjoyed living there.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, as have many of the people along this road, and haven’t encountered any problems,” he says.

“I did read about the flat being closed but we certainly haven’t had any problems here.”

Take a walk down Carlyon Close in the video below

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Speaking about the police’s actions, neighbourhood beat manager PC Sharon Tooze said: “The tenants of these properties have caused issues for the neighbours for many months.

“The neighbours are now able to live peacefully in their own properties without fear of being woken throughout the night with a stream of noisy visitors coming into the communal hallway.

“They have had to witness drug dealing and violence in the communal areas, and put up with late night music and shouting and swearing at all hours.

“The behaviour has been unacceptable and despite our best efforts to work with the tenants, offer them support and signpost them to the appropriate agencies, they continued with the behaviour leaving us no option but to take further action.”

Exeter City Council had no further comment to make when approached by DevonLive.

Hopefully the actions of the police and council will help improve the quality of life for residents along both streets.

What is clear though is that, while the authorities’ actions may have helped, they do not appear to have provided a permanent solution.





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