In the case of tonight's intruders, it is both.
USgal and me can definitely hear footsteps scampering in the roof tonight -- someone is walking across our ceiling! It is 8pm and somebody has accessed the roof!
Before we can do anything, we can make out a policeman outside our door talking with Kitchen Sink Neighbour. A squad car is already here, having received a 999 call from someone on our floor (the Italian students next door we think).
This is what a police guy says to her:
"Is this one of the blocks that's going to be condemned... there's nobody up there now, there's nothing we can do... Yeah, we can see they accessed the roof, there’s nothing we can do about locking it… Call the council, yeah but if you do it enough times, they'll come and put a lock on it... We hear your concerns, but there's nothing we can do."
Trying to tell the cops about Tuesday's flood damage as a result of stolen water pipes does not budge them from "there's nothing we can do." Wow, we feel so protected.
All this basically confirms Saturday's scrap metal mongers. They’re here and they've accessed the hatch from our stairwell that leads to the electricity power station up in the roof. This is a hatch that the council leaves UNLOCKED, by the way. Does this disturb you? It disturbs us and every neighbour on this floor, bringing them all out on the gangway to investigate.
We decide to padlock the hatch ourselves, when it's pointed out that the thieves don't have tools, that they pull out the pipes with their bare hands. Bare hands can't cut padlock metal, right? The husband of our renting Polish neighbours takes charge of its purchase and attachment, all done in 15 minutes.
"That's what it's all about, safety for everyone" Polish Husband says afterwards, to the look of relief on my face. The padlock's keys will be posted to the council.
Can we exhale yet? N.o.t. y.e.t.
Kitchen Sink Neighbour later makes the observation that although the scrap thieves may not consider their actions to be stealing -- their actions are stealing our right to be here.
After all, tonight's drama is just the latest to test the council's patience with this emptying block of flats. Noisy squatters, 24hr Sitex men, twice-hourly police visits, junkies -- the council must be aware of what is taking place here. The question is: when will they respond?