Letter: Squatter's wrongs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Though entertaining, Danny Penman's tale of how he was set up in an east London flat by Syd the Squatbroker exposes the myth of the "harmless" squatter ("How squatter king set me up in a London flat for pounds 120", 24 July).

At first glance, these "Syds" seem ingenious and enterprising as they abseil into high-rise flats or slice open security doors. But in our experience this ruthless determination to break into other people's homes is generally equalled only by their determination to keep hold of them by intimidating neighbours, threatening staff and even booby-trapping properties to prevent their recovery.

We have been working hard to prevent Syd and his like from getting their hands on what is, after all, a public resource. We have dramatically speeded up lettings to reduce the number of empty homes. We have worked with the utilities, the police and the courts. We have even worked with some squatters to find solutions. The result is that squatting is now a tiny fraction of what it used to be and, crucially, our properties go to people in need rather than to those who are simply prepared to jump the queue.

Far from helping the homeless, the Syds of this world are simply prepared to sell empty homes to the highest bidder.

DAVID THOMPSON

Director of Estate Management and Development

Hackney

London E8

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