Residents have formed a neighbourhood watch to patrol the streets at night in a town where police have “given up” investigating crime.
The volunteers of the Foggy Furze Community Watch group in Hartlepool, which has been active for the past three months, say that they had been frustrated by the lack of support from police after being victims of crime, and decided to get together to “protect what’s ours,” reports the Hartlepool Mail.
“We feel we have no option, but to try to look after ourselves,” said Darren Price, who came up with the idea of running patrols in the town, which has a population of 90,000.
“People are scared especially on the night. It is work vans getting broken into, houses getting broken into, anti-social behaviour.”
“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,” he added.
British Unarmed Police Could Let Violent Suspects Go if Public Doesn’t Help https://t.co/DpNJWZd7NA
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The group of concerned citizens, which coordinates patrols and reports crime via their Facebook group, denies they are “vigilantes,” and say they have a female volunteer who logs incidents — such as theft, break-ins, and lead being removed from roofs — on a spreadsheet.
One resident, Paul Timlin, told The Times he had to get in touch with a local ‘hard man’ to help in the recovery of his tools after he waited two weeks for police to investigate, which they never did.
It’s a low-grade crime to them,” Mr Timlin said. “To me it’s £1,500-worth of tools.”
Another, cab driver Stephen Picton, said: “One of the lads started patrolling the streets of Hartlepool because of the rise in crime. He reported a few incidents and the police never came back to him. The council never answered him back. A few of us decided to join him. There are no police in the area so something has to be done.
“Sometimes I finish my taxi shift at 2 am and spend an extra two hours driving or walking around. I would rather be in bed fast asleep,” Mr Picton added.
Residents and local authorities have complained that Hartlepool has been hit by cuts to policing since austerity in 2010 and say they have sympathy with the force. The BBC reported that on Saturday there were only ten officers in the north-eastern town and at one point, there were no officers available to respond to calls.
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“Police have effectively given up on coming out because they just don’t have the resources — victims get a crime number and that’s it.” Hartlepool’s Labour MP Mike Hill told the Daily Mail.
“Frightened, hard-working taxpayers feel the streets have been abandoned by police. The situation in Hartlepool is typical of most British towns. It is a damning indictment of underfunding up and down the country.”
The report comes after the chairman of London’s Metropolitan Police Federation Ken March suggested that police may let violent suspects go unless they get help from the public — a call rapidly contradicted by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Sir Steve House.
Distancing the department from Mr Marsh’s comments on Tuesday, Sir Steve said the public “should only intervene if they can safely do so.”
The comments came after footage surfaced of two police officers being brutally attacked by suspects while motorists drove by.
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter has called for police, who are not routinely armed, to be issued Tasers amidst rising attacks on officers.