Residents in Hartlepool are patrolling the streets at night to protect their property from criminals, as Government cuts have a major impact on policing in the town.
Volunteers in Foggy Furze say they have no option but to take to the streets in the middle of the night following cuts to police in the town.
Almost every night, a handful of residents walk around the ward keeping an eye on homes, businesses and vehicles to try to ward off crooks.
They say they have ‘no option, but to try to look after ourselves’.
It comes as a BBC report revealed there were no police officers in Hartlepool to respond to emergencies at one point last Saturday night due to all those on duty deployed elsewhere including having to transport suspects to Middlesbrough.
Just this week Cleveland Police has launched a consultation on plans to close the Custody Suite at Hartlepool Police Station and transport suspects to be questioned in Middlesbrough when they are arrested.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill says he will continue to press the Home Secretary Sajid Javid over police funding and has called for an urgent meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger and the Cleveland Police Chief Constable Mike Veale over policing in the town.
Foggy Furze resident Darren Price came up with the idea of running patrols in his commuinity after reported increases in crime in the area.
He said: “We feel we have no option, but to try to look after ourselves.
“People are scared especially on the night. It is work vans getting broken into, houses getting broken into, anti-social behaviour.
“It was quiet for a while but it started to get bigger.
“We don’t encourage anybody on the patrols to engage with anybody who commits a crime, all we ask is report it to the police.”
The neighbourhood patrols are coordinated through a page on Facebook and take place almost every night of the week.
Darren added: “All we can do is keep an eye out for our neighbours.
“We don’t blame the police. It is a bit like the NHS, we know they are understaffed and morale is low.
“We are just trying to give a helping hand.”
Hartlepool gas engineer Paul Timlin has also told how he was left frustrated by the police’s response despite having CCTV of £1,500 worth of tools being stolen from his van at Hart Station earlier this year.
Paul Timlin of ACS Gas said it was almost two weeks before he was visited by police.
He eventually recovered most of the tools after tracing those responsible by sharing the footage on Facebook.
Paul said: “I sympathise with the police because I believe it’s down to governmental cuts.
“There just isn’t enough police to police Hartlepool. In a town of around 100,000 or so there just isn’t enough police in cars on the beat.”
But he described plans to mothball Hartlepool’s custody suite where people arrested are held as ‘mental’ as it takes officers out of the town to transport people arrested to Middlesbrough.
Cleveland Police say the Hartlepool facility is only used by around four people a day and moving the service to a dedicated built facility in Middlesbrough will help save money and mean those under arrest can get support such as for mental health if they need it.
Hartlepool’s MP is calling for an urgent meeting with police
Hartlepool’s MP is seeking an urgent meeting with police chiefs over a ‘frightening’ levels of police covering the town.
Mike Hill said it is ‘totally unacceptable’ that at one point on Saturday night there were no officers in Hartlepool to respond to emergencies as revealed in a national BBC news report.
The MP said cuts to police budgets have had an impact on officer numbers, Cleveland Police has a duty to protect the town.
Mr Hill said: “For far too long we have not had sufficient bobbies on the beat in Hartlepool and as this shocking report on the national BBC News demonstrates, crime is on the increase as a consequence; particularly violent crime.
“Cuts to police budgets have clearly played their part. As I highlighted last week in a debate in the Commons, Cleveland Police has lost 500 police officers and 50 PCSOs since 2010, but the force has a responsibility and a duty to protect our communities.
“Having only 10 Officers deployed in Hartlepool on Saturday night, and probably less during the week, is frightening, and it is totally unacceptable that at one point in the film there were no officers left to respond to any emergency calls.”
Mr Hill said residents are fed up at the police’s ability to respond to crime, adding it is ‘beyond the pale’ that some have taken to patrolling the streets.
He added: “I will continue to put pressure on the Home Secretary over police funding, but Cleveland Police need to play their part; I understand that the Chief Constable is undertaking a strategic review of the force and I will be pressing for more resources to be put into Hartlepool and the retention of the custody suite.”
Mr Hill said two officers having to make a 30-mile round trip to Middlesbrough to process arrested suspects as shown in the BBC report effectively takes 40% of Hartlepool’s police cover off the town’s adding it is arguably not an efficient use of police resources.
“I have asked the Police and Crime Commissioner for an urgent meeting with him and the Chief Constable to discuss these issues,” he said.
What police say
Police say they are as committed as ever to policing in Hartlepool and they make the most efficient use of resources based on threat, harm and risk.
In the last few weeks alone, police say they have seen drugs being taken off the streets and anti-social behaviour tackled across the town.
Community Policing Superintendent Alison Jackson said: “Whilst cuts to policing have had an effect on resources locally, a position which is reflected across all forces nationally, our commitment to policing in Hartlepool remains the same as ever.
“We make the most efficient use of the resources available to us and those resources are directed to incidents based on levels of threat, harm and risk to our communities.
“Cleveland Police is currently undergoing a programme of change aimed at maximising our available resources so that we can protect the most vulnerable within our communities and focus on those that need us the most.
“Here in Hartlepool we have a partnership approach whereby officers and staff from Cleveland Police, Hartlepool Borough Council and Cleveland Fire Brigade work from the same building and therefore communicate and deal with problems more effectively, efficiently and in a more timely manner.
“We are listening to members of the public and are acting on information provided. In the last few weeks alone we have seen examples of drugs being taken off the streets of Hartlepool, anti-social behaviour being tackled across the town and environmental issues being dealt with, all as a result of acting on information provided by the public.”