A town in the United Kingdom with a population of 90,000 has had its "streets abandoned by police" and been left with just 10 officers on duty at a time.

Residents of Hartlepool, County Durham, band together to patrol their neighbourhoods after police failed to respond to a spate of thefts and burglaries.

Locals have taken to solving their own crimes on Facebook after budget cuts saw the number of frontline officers at Cleveland Police slashed by 500 in the past eight years, the Daily Mail reports.

Politicians said police had "given up" responding to some calls from hard-working taxpayers and warned that the situation is similar in towns across Britain.


They complain that the Cleveland force receives less funding than more affluent areas while struggling with high crime in Hartlepool, Redcar, Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough.

Just ten officers are on duty overnight in Hartlepool, a coastal town with a population of 92,000, and police cars sit empty because there are not enough officers to fill them. Cleveland Police announced on Monday they were shutting down the town's custody suite to save money – forcing officers to drive anyone they arrest to Middlesbrough police station 15 miles away.

On a recent Saturday night, all ten police officers were busy dealing with incidents, meaning there was no one left to respond to emergency calls, a BBC News investigation found. At one stage, four officers were driving prisoners to Middlesbrough.

Gas engineer Paul Timlin captured thieves stealing all of his tools on CCTV, but was forced to solve the crime himself because police failed to turn up for two weeks. The 57-year-old grandfather was unable to work when £1,500 worth of tools were stolen from his van outside his house.

Timlin posted footage of the theft on Facebook, and when someone recognised the thieves he contacted a 'local hard man' who persuaded them to return the tools.

Timlin said: "Posting on Facebook solves crimes quicker than ringing the police. It's a low-grade crime to the police, but for me it's £1,500 of tools that are essential for my job. I called the police straight away and went to the station the next day, but was told there were not enough police to cope."

Another local business owner, Corrine Winwood, 37, said: 'People post their own CCTV footage of when they have been broken into on Facebook saying, "have you seen this person?" '

Resident Darren Price helps organise early-morning patrols of the streets in a bid to deter criminals, and says the volunteers are "doing the job of the police".


"We just want to try and make our area safer. The police don't come out," he told the BBC. "We want the people who are coming around our area nicking things to know that there are people walking the streets actively looking for them."

Hartlepool mayor Allan Barclay said: 'Criminals are very happy because they know they can get away with it. Policing is now non-existent for low-level crimes and things like burglaries and shoplifting because the police's hands are tied by budget cuts.

'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 said: "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 empty police building in Hartlepool, County Durham. Photo / Supplied
The empty police building in Hartlepool, County Durham. Photo / Supplied

Police chiefs and politicians say Cleveland's budget has been "cut to the bone" since austerity struck in 2010. Cleveland Police have closed 12 police stations, triggering protests by residents carrying placards reading: 'We need to feel safe.' Over the past eight years, the force has shed 500 officers, leaving it with a uniformed force of 1,257.

Community policing superintendent Alison Jackson, of Hartlepool Police, said: "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 and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger added: "The Government must sit up and listen to what we are telling them about the crippling impact of their cuts on policing in Cleveland."

In Bristol, thieves breaking into three vans at one property were caught on CCTV – but the owners claim police refused to investigate or even watch the video.

Darren Smith, 25, said: "The police said they don't come out to this type of crime and there was nothing they could do.

"They didn't want to come out and take the CCTV and they haven't given me a way to send it to them – I feel let down by it and I don't feel safe."

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: "The investigator allocated to Smith's crime emailed him introducing herself, giving her contact details and with a link for him to upload the CCTV. She has had no reply."

Chief Constable calls on public to 'help not hinder' frontline PCs

A police chief joined calls for the public to "help and not hinder" frontline officers.

The comments by Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes came after officers condemned the 'walk on by' culture in which members of the public film attacks on their phones instead of stopping them.

Rhodes said: "We are not saying to the public that we expect you to get involved in physical violence on the streets.

"What we are saying is there are ways and means of helping us and some of the things that we are seeing are hindering us. This isn't a green light for have-a-go heroes."

The Daily Mail revealed how footage of a London woman police officer being kicked into the path of a bus was shared online. It prompted Ken Marsh, chairman of the Met Police Federation, which represents almost 30,000 junior officers, to warn that officers may let thugs go if the public fails to back them up.

However speaking to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire, Rhodes said: "We are trained to deal with violent incidents. If our officers feel they are not in a position to make a safe arrest without being harmed they will back up and wait for more support to come."

Responding to the footage of the London policewoman being kicked, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said: "I was shocked, I thought it was sickening to see the violence that my officers were subjected to.

"I was honestly appalled that somebody should be filming that and laughing about it."

When asked if the public should intervene, she said: "It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who you are, how fit and able you feel and what is in fact unfolding in front of your eyes."