A man who spent a week stealing Christmas lights off homes in Charleswood — dubbed ‘the Grinch’ by his victims — has had his crime spree cut short by a tight-knit group of neighbours.
In a scene right out of Whoville, Natalie MacFarlane said she was shocked to find her lit Christmas lights had been stolen right off the trees in the front yard of her Charleswood home last week.
The theft left her kids devastated, she told 680 CJOB Friday.
“Who takes the spirit of Christmas and unwinds it from kids’ trees?” said MacFarlane, who went through the tape on her surveillance camera to catch the thief in action.
“You can play back this video and see him unwinding our lights as they’re lit up — who does that?”
MacFarlane was even more surprised to learn hers wasn’t the only home on the block targeted.
After others on the street began seeing strings of Christmas lights go missing, the neighbours started a group chat to keep in contact about what they were seeing on the block.
They called the chat group “The Grinch Watch.”
They also gathered their surveillance video footage to put together a profile of the suspect.
“He had been stealing Christmas lights all week … and we had had enough,” said MacFarlane.
On Thursday night there was a break in the case when neighbour Stacey Burrows saw a man fitting the description of the light thief heading into her neighbour’s garage.
“I just thought … this is our guy — it’s him,” said Burrows, who quickly let the group chat know.
Within minutes several neighbours were at the scene of the crime.
And to make matters worse for the would-be thief, the garage belongs to a former RCMP member, John Inglis, who sprang to action when he noticed a group of his neighbours walking towards his garage.
“I looked in (the garage) and there was a guy in my car, rifling through my car,” said Inglis Friday.
“My past experience told me we’ve got to bring this to an end very quickly.
“I wrestled him out to the front, and to his chagrin, a lot of people got involved.”
With the help of neighbours, Inglis was able to hold the suspect until Winnipeg police arrived.
Police say the 31-year-old man arrested at the scene is linked to other thefts and break-ins in the area.
MacFarlane said the whole experience has brought her and her neighbours closer together — just in time for the holidays.
“It was our intent to light up our street with joy and happiness, and to wake up and see that someone quite literally was taking the happiness off of your tree, I just (thought) not in my neighbourhood,” she said.
“To see how our neighbours all came together to put an end to it — and bring us all closer together — is just the true spirit of Christmas.”