Residents of a posh London street have set up their own community force to start policing crimes – after burglars started ‘terrorising’ their affluent neighbourhood.
Maliha Butt heads a ‘vigilante’ Whatsapp group that was created to investigate 12 burglaries that took place in just three months.
After being set up just weeks ago, the group’s 100 members are ‘mobilised’ to approach people in cars and monitor the activity of passers-by along their road in Sutton, south London.
The road sits in a leafy area lined with trees and dozens of detached properties that start from £1.2 million.
Secondary school teacher Maliha had lived on Higher Drive in Sutton for over 30 years before she was burgled last month.
The 36-year-old said: “I don’t even think it’s a random robber here – these people have been trained.
“This gang has ripped off wall hangings and mirrors because they’re looking for a safe.
“They do a reconnaissance mission where they come a few days before and stake the place out in a car.
“It’s not our iPads being stolen, they’re going for gold, jewellery, cash, and anything that’s expensive.”
Maliha said that burglars have specifically gone for ‘female rooms’ on the street in a bid to steal designer clothes and handbags.
The WhatsApp group is awash with claims of men in black Range Rovers who sit outside houses waiting to see if occupants are away.
One resident said he would like to see the thieves ‘strung up’ and called for more action in the WhatsApp group.
He said: “I’m not giving my name because it’s very cliquey here – but I want to see more done to stop these thieves.
“I approached a car and they claimed to be here for a viewing – when I called round all the estate agents, it was a lie.
“They also used number plates for cars that are completely different from other areas – they are terrorising us.
“I’m going to push for more patrols, I want to bring it back to these people.
“We know they are there, we see them and we are waiting.”
Signs up and down the street clearly state that CCTV is in place in a bid to deter potential burglars.
Another elderly resident said: “We have had to step up our security, with fitted new floodlights and cameras everywhere.
“The house next to us is empty, it has been since the summer, the burglars somehow found out straight away and the place was cleared out fast.
“It is a shame that we have had to set up our own group to stop this happening, in a sense we have become the police.
“You have caused driving up and down here late at night they are clearly ‘casing the joint’.
“I know that our neighbours had been burgled to times in the last two months – I can tell you these people have caused so much upset.
“We gather photos reports and information and then pass it on to the place, doing their job for them.”
Residents add to a weekly spreadsheet in the group, which is then passed onto the police.
There have also been talks to install 24-hour security as another measure, costing up to £90 per household a month.
Now they hope the new measures will catch the gang in the act – before they turn them over to cops.
Maliha added: “It’s really, really difficult and it’s proving really frustrating for a lot of us because it’s quite an affluent area.
“The police are doing their job, but they are so stretched and we are filling in the gaps.
“We’re all very hard working people that have worked very hard for our homes that are very nice, and they are very palatial, and they are very fancy.
“But at the same time all of them are now being targeted and it’s really hard to deal with that.”
By Daniel Hammond