DISCARDED heroin needles no longer have 'shock value' for most people in the Ballymena area.
This part of Northern Ireland has long and painful experience of the grim impact which that narcotic can have on society.
But the discovery of a 'crack pipe' , tossed aside in an alley only a matter of yards from the town centre has raised alarm bells with fears rising that the area may prove fertile ground for the sale of the deadly substance.
The pipe was found, with some other drugs paraphenalia, in the lane behind Kilpatrick House, the High Street social housing complex which has sadly gained a notorious reputation with the local public.
For the majority of tenants who find themselves forced to live alongside a minority of substance abusers, dealers and other violent criminals the discovery was less of a shock.
They say that drug abuse is just the tip of an anti-social behaviour iceberg which is making their lives a nightmare.
Last week, the Guardian spoke with tenants who say that the situation in the complex is 'steadily deteriorating'.
Having moved into Kilpatrick House after its transformation from a semi-derelict former tax office into a high spec housing complex, the tenants say they were delighted with their new homes.
"The flats were finished to the highest quality. They cannot be faulted in that respect and for the vast majority of tenants they were a dream home," said one resident.
But it was not long before that initial dream was shattered. Now they feel abandoned to their fate with prolific drug dealing and numerous acts of violence taking place on a regular basis.
"We'd been assured that tenants in this complex would be subject to a code of behaviour with a clear promise that those who flaunted those regulations would not be tolerated.
"It is our experience that the vast majority of law abiding, respectful tenants are routinely confronted with exhibitions of drug dealing, substance abuse and frightening physical violence.
"Our estimate is that around 10 flats out of the 40 in the complex are the ones which have problems associated. It's like being stuck in a prison. We even have 24 hour security but that is only papering over the cracks."
“We keep hearing promises of better times ahead from Choice Housing but we can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
“As far as we can see, it’s the troublemakers who are taken by the hand. It seems to be all about their rights and finding ways to solve their problems.
“What about the right to a decent life for the good tenants? We hear that a multi agency focus group is being formed to tackle this issue but to be honest, none of us are holding our breath for a successful outcome.”
The Guardian put these points to Choice Housing. They said: “The safety of our tenants and the wider community is of paramount importance to us and we are committed to providing secure, affordable, quality housing to meet the diverse needs of our tenants.
“Whilst we are unable to comment on individual cases due to tenant confidentiality, we can advise that Choice robustly addresses incidents of anti-social behaviour in accordance with our Anti-Social Behaviour Policy.
“ The Association continues to meet regularly with PSNI and Environmental Health in relation to issues in the area, and have held meetings with elected representatives to discuss anti-social behaviour.
“We have onsite security in place at the scheme during evenings and weekends and encourage tenants to contact the Association directly regarding any issue or concern they may have.
“Choice is committed to building a sense of community in the area and recently delivered a community bridging activity for tenants from the scheme and invited other Choice tenants from across Ballymena.
“We have held two tenant meetings in Ballymena within the last month, and are in the process of establishing an interagency group for the area for early May”.