I'm trapped living in 'UK's worst place' – teens stalk streets with machetes & police helicopters keep us awake | The Sun

A STONE'S throw from a row of police cars, a homeless man rummages in a bin looking for discarded cigarettes and leftovers.

We're in Luton, the Bedfordshire town branded the "worst place to live in the UK" this week in a new poll. 

Despite boasting an airport and a popular university, many residents we spoke to agreed – claiming the London commuter belt town is plagued by crime, with young yobs running amok.

One resident, 83-year-old Peter Vaughn, who has lived there for 50 years, didn't mince his words.

“Worst place in the UK? It’s the worst place in the world," he tells us.

"At night, you find police helicopters keeping us up looking for drug dealers."


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In December 2021, Luton had the worst crime rate in Bedfordshire for burglary, and was also the county's most dangerous area for criminal damage and arson.

Data from Bedfordshire Police reveals last year alone, 1,156 crimes investigated ended up with no suspect identified, while 982 resulted in no prosecution.

When The Sun visited there was a strong police presence in the town, with frequent patrols. We even witnessed an arrest.

But officers on the street don't appear to reassure residents.

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Some residents told The Sun they feel "trapped"Credit: Darren Fletcher

Mother-of-two Joanna Ludwicza, 39, who is originally from Poland, says she has experienced some horrific incidents in the town.

She recalls: "A few years ago in the place I live, one of my neighbours stabbed his friend, who eventually died. They were both 19, I believe.

"There are some streets I believe are too dangerous to walk down in the dark. I think it's more to do with the younger generations.

"Some run around with weapons on the road, sell drugs and get into fights.

One day I was popping to the shops to get some milk and bread from the corner shop and saw some guys with machetes

"One day I was popping to the shops to get some milk and bread from the corner shop and saw some guys with machetes.

"I think the police don't have too much control over it."

Joanna says she worries about her safety and that of her children.

"As a mother-of-two, I don't even let them go out on their own out of fear that something may happen to them," she adds.

Another local woman, 26, who did not wish to be named, told us it's "not the best place to live", but she feels "trapped".

Manisha Gill, 23, a first-year interior design student at the town's University of Bedfordshire, admits she feels compelled to have her wits about her when she goes out.

"I can go to the cinemas with my friends, but when I’m in Luton I have to watch my surroundings and keep an eye on my things," she explains.

"As soon as you walk into Luton, it’s chaos. It’s just one big mess.

"The place is dirty and you have people in hoodies always staring at you.

Manisha, who commutes to the university from nearby Bedford adds: "You see in the news that there are always stabbings in Luton.

"It’s not nice. It is unsafe – when I walk in Bedford, it’s fine."

Sadly, like many high streets across the country, Luton has more than its share of boarded up shops, with rows of depressing grey shutters.

While some areas we visit are generally clean, parts like Bury Park are beset by piles of rubbish dumped on street corners.

We came across a number of homeless people – suggesting the situation hasn't much improved since Luton topped the UK homelessness list in December 2021.

Research by the charity Shelter found one in 66 people were classed as homeless – the worst figure for the entire UK excluding London.

Mateusz Kowalczyk believes high unemployment is at the root of many of the town's problems.

Last week Luton ranked 11th in the UK for towns and cities with the highest levels of hidden unemployment, according to a report by Centre for Cities – the only town not in the north of England in the top 12 bar Newport in Wales.

Mateusz, 32, who immigrated from Poland and has lived in Luton for two years, says: "Generally I would say it’s not a good place to live and it’s not getting any better.

"There are a lot of businesses that are shutting down and people don’t have jobs.

"Crime and drugs are very visible here on the streets even during the day and it shouldn't be like that.

"Whatever people choose to do in their own time and privacy is their business but it's just so visible over here."

But not all residents agreed with the I Live Here poll.

Terry Toon, 84, a former printing industry worker who has lived in Luton all his life, says: "I don't know why Luton is getting such a bad rap because there's a lot going for it.

"We've got the airport and we're not far from London. I've got nothing against Luton itself. It's always given me a job and a living so I'm happy."

He does admit that he hopes the shopping centre improves, adding: "I just hope it changes so we can go in there because a lot of people won't come down now.

"Even my daughter won't come in. They just don't like it."

'We're good'

One of Luton's most fierce defenders is Yenkofa Afrique, who owns businesses in High Town, one of its most recognisable inner areas.

The 44-year-old owns a barbershop and an African-Caribbean grocery store named after him, and says he "fully disagrees" with the poll.

"There’s crime everywhere – it’s in Westminster and even in the White House," he says.

"We love this town. If we don’t make it right, nobody will do it for us.

"High crime rates and drugs are everywhere. Luton people don’t do drugs. The drugs come from the city – we are not drug dealers here."

Yenkofa's mother Kafui, who runs his shop, adds: "I've been here since 1990 and I've seen nothing wrong with Luton. I brought up two boys here who own businesses.

"Crime has reduced significantly. The government and the police have done a lot.

"People try to bring things in here because they think we have a reputation, and we kick them out. Luton has its own way of managing itself and we're okay."

Milanka Appuhamy, 44, who has lived in Luton for 10 years and runs an Indian restaurant called Ceylon Pantry, also defends her fellow Lutonians.

"People in Luton are not bad – they are lovely and have good hearts," she says.

"I walk these streets every day and nothing has ever happened to me, because when you give respect, you get it back.

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"There are some people who deal in drugs around here and you do have to be careful sometimes, but this is everywhere in the UK and the whole world. Those who work hard survive."

Luton Borough Council declined to comment.

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