Locals in stab-proof vests patrol streets as they're fed up with crime
27th February 2023

The volunteer ‘vigilantes’ who are fighting crime due to lack of police: Locals equipped with bodycams and stab-proof vests patrol streets of Portsmouth after becoming fed up with ‘ten-fold rise’ in crime

  • Portsmouth locals have taken to ‘vigilante’ patrols in protest at rising crime 
  • Andy Kirchner’s volunteers wear stab-proof vests and report crime to the police

Volunteer ‘vigilantes’ have taken to patrolling their own city streets equipped with bodycams and stab-proof vests because their ‘trust’ with police has been ‘broken’ and crime has increased ‘tenfold.’ 

Fed up with drug dealing, car thefts and other offences, Andy Kirchner has organised local residents to tackle crime because he believes there aren’t enough officers on the beat.

Mr Kirchner, who owns a CCTV company, spent £2,500 of his own money to buy protective gear for the volunteers in Portsmouth and local businesses have also donated money to the group.

Equipped with bodycams, high visibility jackets, stab-proof vests and radios, the volunteers roam their local areas at night and make reports to the police, even intervening when it is safe.

Mr Kirchner claims crime has gone up ‘tenfold’ in recent years and insists his approach is now yielding results.

Andy Kirchner leads a team of volunteers who patrol the streets of Portsmouth at night

Andy’s team are equipped with stab proof vests and CCTV cameras 

‘The police have acted on the reports we have given them and have made arrests,’ he said. ‘Action is being taken.

‘The police are responding where they can, but they can’t be everywhere at once. I feel sorry for them.

‘There are nowhere near enough officers on the beat overnight. Residents are worried. I want people to feel safe in their own homes.’

Mr Kirchner said he will continue the patrols due to the amount of public support, with residents requesting patrols to cover their areas.

He said: ‘They’re saying this is brilliant and showing a proper community spirit.

‘Together we are stronger. If we work together, we will become stronger, and crime will go down.

‘I want to get these idiots off the streets who think they can do what they want.’

Anti-social behaviour has risen in Portsmouth with locals now taking matters into their own hands to protect local businesses (Pictured: A group attempts to break into a Portsmouth business)

An attempted break in at the Casemates Studios, a Music Rehearsal Studio & Cafe in Portsmouth

Picnic benches thrown into the Hilsea lido in Portsmouth 

Mr Kirchner, who lives in the Hilsea area of the city, said the volunteers have witnessed drug dealing, attempted car thefts, anti-social behaviour, arson, vandalism, fly-tipping, and graffitiing.

Anti social behaviour and criminal damage got so bad last summer, Hampshire Police issued a dispersal order covering hotspots in May.

At the time, some residents were ‘scared to go out of their homes’, with gangs roaming the streets at night and vandals damaging buildings.

Zoe Wakefield, the Hampshire Police Federation chair, said an underfunded police service is causing low public confidence.

‘Demand is going up, and police resources are still not where they were back in 2010.

‘There needs to be huge investment by the government. They can’t expect to have this brilliant police service if they are not going to invest in it.

‘If we can provide a better service to the public, rather than them phoning us and officers turning up hours later, that’s going to help restore some faith.’

Ms Wakefield praised the ‘civic mindedness’ of the volunteers, but said it was ‘sad’ that citizens felt like they had to resort to such measures.’

Scott Payter-Harris, a Portsmouth City Conservative councillor, said: ‘They are using their resources to go out and help people. They are a presence, and that is the key part about it. What Andy is doing off his own back is showing how much he cares for the community.’

Councillor Russell Simpson, from Portsmouth Independents Party, said: ‘Andy and his team go out of their way to patrol the streets of to make residents feel a little safer.

‘He doesn’t have to do this, but chooses to as feels there isn’t enough police presence.’

Hampshire Police Federation chair Zoe Wakefield has praised the volunteers’ civic mindedness

CCTV footage shows a fight breaking out on a Portsmouth street

Locals are fed up with criminality, anti-social behaviour and vandalism

Cllr Payter-Harris said criminality has appeared to have ‘eased’ but not gone away.

‘Lots of different agencies are working to get to the root cause of the problem. A lot of people have been engaged. The police are a presence around here, much more than they have been.

‘Trust with the council and police is broken with residents of these troubled areas.

‘We’re getting more police on the beat, and it’s important. The more coppers present, the more chance criminals are going to get seen. Keep reporting. Persistence beats resistance.’

Sgt Sarah Coolahan, who covers Hilsea and other areas, said: ‘We are grateful to any member of our community who volunteers their time to better life for local residents, however we would like to remind people not to put themselves in harm’s way and to remember that we are still there for them.’

She insisted that the number of criminal incidents is on the decline thanks to a new police strategy.

‘We know that this may not be the view of all residents and urge people to still keep reporting incidents to us, the more we know the better we will be able to target our resources effectively,’ she said,

‘We can’t help if we don’t know about it.’

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