Villagers man crime patrols: After complaints of too few police, a Welsh community has taken the fight against theft, vandalism and mugging into its own hands. Michael Prestage reports

AT NIGHT, the village of Blaengwynfi in south Wales is a fortress. From midnight until the early hours, two cars take up vantage points to monitor the road running through the village.

All cars are checked and identified. If they appear suspicious they are followed. A further group patrols the streets. It is supplied with two-way radios bought with money raised by the villagers.

It was revealed last week that people in Wigan, Lancashire, had paid for security patrols to guard their properties. Here in the south Wales valleys, where unemployment runs at 20 per cent, they provide their own protection.

The action group - the word 'vigilante' is disliked - was formed last November when a spate of crime brought complaints that there were not enough policemen on the beat.

One night alone, five cars were stolen. On average, five crimes - break-ins, vandalism and muggings - were being reported each weekend. More than 100 people turned up when the scheme for mounting patrols was first suggested.

After a cabaret night at the village social club, volunteers for that night's patrol met near the old police station, built in 1907 and closed 15 years ago. The patrols are unarmed - their intention is to observe and call the police if necessary.

Rumours that they carried baseball bats led to the police searching their cars. Nothing was found. But Colin Day, the action group chairman, said: 'We have some handy lads out at night. Many are ex-miners. They can look after themselves'.

They need to. Patrol members have faced increasing abuse from certain residents of a recently- built housing estate. Cars have been vandalised, families threatened and stones thrown.

Wayne Lewis, 26, a roofer and founder-member of the patrols, had his car rammed while it was parked outside his house. He was also attacked by a gang carrying sticks. 'I'm not going to be beaten,' he said.

His neighbour, Paul Mizen, 35, who works in insurance, said his family received abuse every day but it had not deterred him. 'It is frustrating because we know who is responsible. We would all rather be at home with our wives, but we have to do something positive to tackle crime.'

Mr Lewis said that there was support from the police on the ground. The patrol had been successful in bringing some criminals to book and officers had asked them to watch out for stolen vehicles. But officially, police support is more cautious.

Senior officers addressed a public meeting in the village and warned locals they should not take the law into their own hands. South Wales police said: 'We press them to form a Neighbourhood Watch. If they are about in the evening and see anything they should report it to the police.'

There is a strong community spirit in Blaengwynfi. When the coal industry flourished, it had a population of 10,000. It is now 2,000. When the local Co-op closed in 1983, 450 villagers set up their own co-operative venture, which now boasts a supermarket and six small businesses.

One of the founders, Malcolm Reeves, said: 'These people have a special spirit. They are determined to keep the community spirit. But for the patrols' prompt action when the shop was broken into last January, we would have lost thousands of pounds' worth of goods.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum