Vigilante patrols set up to beat Pimlico prowlers

Safety concerns: residents Lorne Roper, Andrea Smith and Trish Thomas are spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of the surge in robberies in Pimlico Vigilante patrols set up to beat Pimlico prowlers

Justin Davenport and Benedict Moore-Bridger

8 Dec 2011

Women in a wealthy part of central London are being targeted at knifepoint by gangs of robbers as they walk home after dark.

Residents are now mounting vigilante patrols after the spate of violent attacks by muggers dubbed the “Pimlico prowlers”.

Eight women have been attacked in Pimlico and Belgravia in the past three weeks and two men are also said to have been mugged.

The robbers, operating in gangs of up to four, have stolen jewellery including rings and two Rolex watches.

Police say they are not yet linking the attacks but residents are so alarmed they are organising local groups of men to mount night-time patrols.
One area is also considering hiring private security guards.

Consultant Mike Thomas, 63, said men in the area were taking matters into their own hands. He said: “I and a neighbour went out last night with a big stick and a torch – but we didn’t find any trouble.

“We are here to chaperone whoever needs it and I should think we’ll carry on until it’s safe again.”

Andrea Smith, 51, has been spearheading a campaign to raise awareness about the alarming rise in attacks.

She said: “They are clearly targeting this area. Everyone is worried for their safety, especially for women coming home after work.

“This is normally a very peaceful and safe area, but over the last three weeks we have had at least 12 muggings, mostly at knifepoint, at nightfall and mostly against single women.

“Apart from one flyer from the police about just one mugging, we have heard nothing.”

Trish Thomas, 52, said: “I have a 27-year-old daughter who is a student living at home and I would much rather pick her up in the car from the Tube station than have her walk, even though it is just yards away.”

In the last attack, on Monday, a woman was knocked down a flight of steps. Police say the latest attacks started on November 16. Some of the muggers have escaped by car or on mopeds, while others have approached victims on foot.

In one attack, a woman pleaded with muggers not to take her wedding or engagement rings as her husband had just died – and they relented.

Resident Lorne Roper, 67, said: “Typically it gets worse in the run-up to Christmas, but it has never been like this before. I was mugged in 1996 on my doorstep by two youths who were being directed from someone in a car, like a Fagin-style apprenticeship. I wonder if it is a similar thing now.”

Police say they are putting “a lot of effort” into investigating the spate of robberies and two youths had so far been arrested.

Officers will hold a community meeting soon to speak to residents. They are advising people to be aware of their surroundings at night, to avoid dark and deserted areas and to be “discreet” with jewellery or mobile phones.

‘Robber held knife to my face as i screamed’

A victim was attacked on her birthday on November 19 as she walked her dog only yards from her front door.

The 35-year-old, who runs a marketing and events company, was robbed of a £25,000 rose-gold Rolex Daytona watch and a 3.5-carat emerald-cut De Beers diamond ring worth £40,000 after being pushed into a doorway by a masked and hooded white youth brandishing a 20cm-long knife at about 6.30pm.

She said: “I was screaming and screaming when he demanded my watch as I hadn’t seen the knife yet. Then he pushed me off the street into a doorway and held it up to my face.

“I normally don’t attract attention when I walk the dog but on that day I was dressed nicely as my family were cooking me a birthday dinner at my house and I had just had my hair done, so I guess I looked ‘expensive’.

“I’ve lived in Pimlico for 15 years and never had anything like this happen before. They were the two most valuable things I own and it was just excruciatingly bad luck that he happened to spot me on that day.”


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