We’re watching you:  A neighbourhood watch group fought back against the one-man crimewave in their community by building up a detailed description of the culprit and handing it over to the police. *Photo by Tim Hall
We’re watching you: A neighbourhood watch group fought back against the one-man crimewave in their community by building up a detailed description of the culprit and handing it over to the police. *Photo by Tim Hall
A burglar and thief who prowled a neighbourhood for six months has been sent to prison after neighbours joined forces to help catch him.

Cash and jewellery began disappearing from homes in the Riddell's Bay area of Warwick. Several residents also reported being startled by a man peering in through their windows, and others saw an intruder sneak into unlocked homes. After several such incidents, the local neighbourhood watch group --comprising of more than 30 families - launched a concerted effort to find who was responsible.

Piece by piece they built up a detailed description of the culprit: 45-year-old Chet Wilmot. The neighbourhood watch group learned his name, recorded his movements and modus operandi and took down the license plate number on his motorbike. They took the information to the police and Mr. Wilmot was eventually arrested. He was jailed for two years for a variety of prowling and theft offences.

Now the Riddell's Bay neighbourhood watch is being hailed by police as a paragon of crime prevention. Anti-burglary officers want the group's leader, Jeff Brewer, to receive an award from the Commissioner of Police.

Mr. Brewer, said: "Our area used to be very safe and quiet, but recently we have seen a large increase in burglary and other crimes. There are a lot of people here who have never had to lock their doors, but now they are buying alarms and security lights. Some houses here have been burgled three times in the past year.

"Many people are concerned about crime in Bermuda. Some elect to do something about it. Our neighbourhood came together and said 'enough is enough' - we're not going to put up with this individual making us feel unsafe in our own homes."

Talking about Mr. Wilmot, Mr. Brewer continued: "This individual was after cash, mostly. He was an opportunist - he'd hang around, peering through windows, looking for a house he could wander into and help himself.

"Once it happens to you - once you've seen him looking through your window - you no longer feel safe in your own home. It just takes that one person hanging around and all of a sudden you are concerned when you go to bed at night.

"This individual would turn up at certain houses almost on a daily basis, constantly looking in windows. For the older residents, especially, that was very unnerving."

The neighbourhood watch group met regularly to share information on Mr. Wilmot and his behaviour. On separate occasions, three members managed to copy down part of the licence plate on his motorcycle. When they had the full number, they took it to the police, who found that the vehicle was stolen.

Mr. Brewer said: "He was hanging around for six months. It took us three or four months to build up a detailed picture of him and then another month or so for the police to bring him in."

Mr. Brewer said he will resist efforts by the police to present him with an award. He said: "I believe that would personalize it. It's not about me, or any one criminal, it's about our community coming together and standing up for itself."

Earlier this month, new police statistics revealed an alarming increase in crime on the island. Burglaries are now happening at twice the rate they were seven years ago. Mr. Brewer said that since Mr. Wilmot has been jailed, another two individuals are thought to be targeting houses in Warwick. He said: "It's disheartening for us and frustrating for the police. These people go to jail, come out and go back to doing exactly the same things. But we won't give up - we have a lot of eyes and ears out there now and that makes us all feel safer."