Further questions have been asked of policing in Hartlepool as town bosses defended the state of the area following a national report.
Members of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership defended the difficult circumstances they face and cited several examples of good work done to battle crime in the town.
Chair of the partnership, Hartlepool Borough Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said the community safety team, made up of key organisations in the town, has been doing the best it can in the circumstances.
However councillors and members of the public raised further concerns that not enough is being done to tackle crime in the area off the back of a BBC report on policing in the town.
Coun Tony Richardson, of Fens and Rossmere ward, said: “We keep telling you we have a problem in the town.
“A week on from taking action at Rossmere Park people were starting fires.
“I’ve said before about problems people in the community are having calling 101, they’re scared to call up and they get me to call for them.
“They’re ringing up saying people are fighting with knives and not getting a good enough response.”
A resident speaking at the meeting said: “There’s untold misery that’s been going on for years, it’s unmeasurable.
“We seem to have Stockholm syndrome when it comes to issues like the heroin problem, you see people in our town, it’s like a scene from the walking dead.
“People who come into the town see the problem, there’s a lack of leadership to tackle it.
“It’s not enough to say we need more funding.”
Coun Jim Lindridge said: “I’m aware of the difficult situation which we are having and that negative public perception we’ve had.
“The community safety team is doing a lot of hard work, but I think there need to be improvements in communications, especially with councillors.
“Councillors are not getting information in their wards so they cannot possibly pass information and help on to residents.
“There are times I’m finding out what’s going on by looking at social media and reading the paper, it’s really important we have that interaction and some regular communication.
“When we had issues in Rossmere Park, how can I reassure residents what’s happening if I’m not being told myself. We need to be talking to each other a lot more.”
However leaders of the community safety team in the town defended how authorities are dealing with issues in the area in ‘difficult circumstances’.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We’ve attracted a lot of media attention in Hartlepool and in my ward and the way it has been portrayed is disappointing.
“A lot of people are really operating and being good neighbours and doing good neighbourhood work.
“We have put a huge amount of work in to make Hartlepool a great place to live and invest.
“I have worked in local government for 20 years and the council and police are trying to provide, in very difficult circumstances, the best possible services under the worst funding from government for decades.”
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “First of all a lot of good work is being done by the council, police and other partners showing working together in the community can get results.
“I’ve been in to see staff briefings and how they work and seeing police officers taking early interest to get results, it is a really good joint initiative and we should continue to support it.
“We are looking at different solutions to tackle issues such as the drug problem and we’re working on a new approach but it depends on funds.
“The work they have been doing is against unprecedented levels of cuts.
“We’ve lost 500 police officers and 50 PCSOs since 2010 and had our budget cut by 36% and the council is facing similar issues with budget cuts, the impact is falling on council tax payers.
“I did record something with the BBC as part of the report on the impact of austerity but they decided not to air it.
“I can see how anxious everyone is but all public services are doing their best to try and keep people safe in Hartlepool.”
Police officers pointed to good work being carried out in the town including several ‘days of action’, anti social behaviour orders, fixed penalty notices and cannabis farms discovered.
Community Policing Superintendent Alison Jackson said: “We’ve had two days of action and the week of action at Rossmere Park so far and we’re looking to do more.
“It’s just a matter of deciding where priority area is and listening to the public intel to find out where to focus on.
“All of this is just a snapshot of the work being done by the community safety partnership, and a lot of work is going on which you would class as business as usual.
“We do have some difficult times ahead of us, no doubt about that but absolutely we will do everything we can in the coming months to improve local and neighbourhood policing structures.”
Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service