Redbridge residents patrol the streets at night to ward off burglars
PUBLISHED: 13:40 21 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:53 22 February 2018
A few months ago, the only cars you would see doing laps around the block in Clayhall were learner drivers - but this has all changed since a spate of burglaries in the area.
Now residents, many of whom have full-time jobs in the day, leave their families after dark to patrol the streets in a bid to protect the community.
Rakesh Makwana, 36, of Clayhall organises the patrols and said the idea came about after he created a Whatsapp group for residents.
“After hearing how a young victim was hit with a hammer over their head in a recent burglary my young children are scared to live in their own home,” he told the Recorder.
“I created a group to safeguard my family and my neighbours and within a space of days the group grew in size and now has around 200 residents.
“All these residents have been verified to ensure anyone who has joined is from Clayhall.”
Rakesh said the original purpose of the group was to communicate any suspicious activity within the neighbourhood so that others can be alerted.
He said it soon became apparent however, that lots of residents in the group were having to wait a long time for help after they called the police, “despite operation Mexico being launched”.
He explained that the community were feeling the impact of government cuts to the Met Police budget, so in response, he decided to set up a patrol group.
“I have a team of 40 volunteers from the neighbourhood both male and female willing to patrol the streets of Clayhall,” he added
“They all patrol on a two-hour shift starting as early as 4pm and finishes around 4am.
“I have advised all patrollers to attend the Street Watch (police backed) training but unfortunately I have been told they are not running training sessions until more funds are raised, in fact, I attended the training but was not provided the full pack due to no funding available.”
To be a group patroller residents must follow rules including always going out in pairs and always having access to a mobile phone.
They are advised not to engage with suspects or perpetrators and only to follow the “look, Listen and Report” Rule.
“I am overwhelmed with the support I have received from the Clayhall Neighbour Group,” he said.
“We have come together like one big family and we collectively are hoping during the next budget the Mayor of London will not make further cuts adding more pressure on us residents and the front line police staff but will increase the budget for the Met and provide more police presence in our neighbourhood.”
A Met Police spokeswoman said: “Whilst we commend the community spirit being shown by these residents who are willing to dedicate their time in the interest of making their community safer, we would like to encourage anyone interested in patrolling the streets, to do so working with the police and remain within the law.
“The Street Watch Scheme is being launched in this area on the 25th February.
“This is an initiative being set up by local police officers, which will be run by the public and for the public.
“Street Watch patrols operate under police guidance, offering a structured and safer method of conducting local patrols. Officers will provide appropriate training, with the Scheme also providing insurance for residents on patrol.”
To tackle the number of burglaries in the borough the East Area Command has also recently formed operation Mexico which is a specialist team of officers, focussing entirely on burglary and robbery offences.
Officers aim to target those who commit these crimes, using every power at their disposal to deter and disrupt their activities, to bring those offenders to justice.
She added: “Since its recent formation, we have already seen great results.”