PATROL: Residents in Chigwell have brought in a private police force
HOMEOWNERS in one of the UK's most exclusive suburbs have resorted to hiring private security patrols to combat a crimewave amid claims police are nowhere to be seen.
Residents of affluent Chigwell in Essex have been plagued by aggravated burglaries, car crime and street robberies as gang violence and crime from London spills into the suburbs.
This month a man was slashed in the face with a blade after robbers smashed his car window in a shopping parade off the High Road at 12.45 pm.
It came after a previous attack when three moped-riding robbers armed with zombie knives tried to rob a man of an expensive watch in front of families outside the town's David Lloyd sports club.
ATTACK: The attempted robbery was outside the plush David Lloyd centre
The victim had to scale a fence to escape.
A day later a man in his 30s had his watch stolen after two men smashed his car window and threatened him with a knife at 2.45pm while he was parked in a road.
The town, made famous by the BBC sitcom Birds of a Feather and more recently reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, has even seen a London gang related murder on its doorstep.
Moses Mayele, a trainee football coach, was stabbed to death on his 23rd birthday on October 12, when a 22-year-old man was also stabbed, but survived.
It happened just over the border in Redbridge, but in a road off Manor Road, Chigwell's most exclusive road dubbed "Millionaire's Row" where some properties sell for more than £4 million.
Ibrahim Mohamed, 19, has been charged with Mr Mayele's murder and attempted murder of the other man.
Notable Chigwell residents include Lord Sugar, who has even faced a burglary at a property he owns.
MURDERED: Moses Mayele
Burglaries, including aggravated ones when homeowners are inside or even attacked, are becoming more frequent in Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, two neighbouring wealthy towns, the three of which are together known as the "Essex Golden Triangle."
There were 16 burglaries or attempted ones in the three towns, mostly in Chigwell, in one week from November 5 to 11. No arrests have happened and six of the investigations have already been closed. In many cases front or rear glass was smashed by suspects, including men wearing balaclavas, to get in.
These included a burglary in Loughton at 5.30pm on November 7 when cash and phones were stolen after the occupant was hit on the head with a crow bar by intruders.
A spate of vehicle crimes the same week saw two Mercedes cars stolen.
ALARM: Police turn up in the road to deal with a burglar alarm during our visit
Residents in one affluent Chigwell road, who are already part of Neighbourhood Watch and reporting suspicious activity to each other through a Whatsapp group, said they were looking to hire patrols from My Local Bobby, a private security firm run by former Met Police detectives.
After a successful pilot in Belgravia, the firm provides residential areas with dedicated security officers who maintain a visible presence in the road, respond to burglar alarms, keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and can be contacted on mobile phones and through Whatsapp.
A man in his 60s said: "We have had a lot of burglaries and car crime, but at a meeting with the MP, police and council they said they couldn't really help us because there was only funding for a couple of police officers for the whole district.
"What difference are we going to see from that? We don't see police walking up here and are drawing up contracts to use this security firm."
There were up to six attempted burglaries in the early hours of November 10 after a burglar accessed rear gardens, ironically from the neighbouring Metropolitan Police Sports Ground.
One victim, a man in his 50s, said: "Someone smashed our back door and got in but the alarm went off and he left. Police came but I don't think they caught him."
In one case the burglar tried to get into the upstairs of a house where children were asleep before he was confronted.
One resident posted CCTV his system recorded of the suspect on Twitter.
SUSPECT: This man was captured on CCTV by residents at the time of the burglaries
He wrote: "Between 4.40am and 7.15am, this person attempted to break into six houses, that I am aware of, in Chigwell one of which was mine.
"I came face to face with him trying to enter the upstairs where my kids were sleeping."
The burglaries are being linked by police.
A Neighbourhood Watch spokesman for the road said: "With the recent attempted break ins in the chigwell area, the residents have really pulled together.
"The Neighbourhood Watch groups are strong and highly active and all residents have taken extra precautions to deter and identify any potential burglars by upgrading security systems and CCTV.
"As an extra precaution we have engaged a private security company to start patrolling our streets to drive out the issue and support the local police."
Not all residents of the street want the private security.
A couple said: "They want £100 per house a month. It is quite a lot and how do we know we can trust the security people?"
But, residents in another Chigwell street, which has hired the security service since June, claimed there have been no burglaries or car crime since they hired the security firm.
LUXURY: An example of a home on Stradbrook Drive
Forty out of 55 luxury homes in Stradbrook Drive signed up to the service after a spate of break-ins and thefts of vehicles.
The last reported burglary was on May 31, a day before My Local Bobby patrols started.
A pensioner, who now lives alone after 42 years in the road, said: "It has changed a lot here and we were getting a lot of break-ins. You used to get police walk up and down but I haven't seen one for at least ten years."
She has been broken into three times, including once when she was asleep inside and birthday presents were taken.
She said: "Nothing has happened since they started the patrols. I feel a lot safer, it is the reassurance."
NO NONSENSE: My Local Bobby Liam spotted our reporter as soon as he arrived in the road
Liam, one of two My Local Bobbies working the road, said: "We have seen people who look like they are casing out a place or who are not from the area and approach them and politely ask what they are doing. They tend to just leave it is a deterrent."
Last month the bobbies spotted a suspicious BMW vehicle with five men in it which they reported to police at 11pm.
Police arrested them after finding a knife, cricket bat, baseball bat and balaclavas in there car. Enquiries are ongoing.
My Local Bobby boss Dave McKelvey said: "We are just doing what police used to do - putting bobbies on the beat.
"We prevent and deter crime in the areas we have patrols. I have no doubt it is keeping these areas safe and it proves high visibility policing works whether it is by police or private security.
"Should a crime occur we have teams of highly experienced career detectives to investigate. Where evidence exists we will also prosecute."
WARNING: Homes signed up to the scheme get a sign on the fence
An Essex Police spokesman said: "While we understand there may be concerns about a number of reported incidents in the Chigwell area, we are taking proactive steps to reduce crime.
"We currently have additional patrols working to tackle burglary in hot spot areas at peak times.
"Last week there were high visibility patrols around Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell, which included a number of stop checks to detect, deter and disrupt criminals.
"We have also been distributing car key blocks in areas experiencing high value vehicle thefts."
Essex Police has worked with Met Police and BTP to share intelligence on travelling crooks and issue criminal behaviour orders to restrict their travel to Essex.
The spokesman would not be drawn on the fact residents felt the need to hire "private police."
He said: "Like other police forces, we continue to work with private security firms, community groups and partner organisations to prevent and reduce crime.
"We want to reiterate that crimes can only be recorded, investigated and solved if they are reported to the police.
"Our community policing team is dedicated to dealing with local problems, and works closely with other parts of the force to tackle crimes such as burglary, anti-social behaviour, car crime and domestic incidents.
"We ask people to continue to report crimes to us so that we can investigate them and build up a picture of emerging crime trends so that we can target our resources."
A David Lloyd spokesman said: "This took place outside the club.
"We take the safety and security of our members and the club teams very seriously and incidents of criminal behaviour are extremely rare. The club has a range security measures in place."