Two private squads of crime fighters are patrolling streets around the Melton borough to give a helping hand to police at a time when their resources are stretched.
Blueline Security and Alarm Response Management have been sending out cars in the evenings and early hours of the morning on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Both companies say their shifts are funded by private householders and business people, and they are not trying to make a profit.
Their staff are former police officers, they say, and they prevent crimes by being visible and also pass on evidence to help police pursue suspects through the courts.
The marked and unmarked vehicles of Blueline Security covered 1,800 miles in their patrols over the festive season in what was a trial to see how effective they might be.
The company said it reported seven ongoing incidents to police and prevented four suspected crimes.
Director Jamie Strickland, who served 23 years in the Royal Military Police, said: “We have been quite astounded by the response to what we’ve been doing on social media, and there appears a definite need for this.
“It’s a service to reduce the fear of crime and promote a visible deterrent to criminal activity.
“As former police officers we know the police are run off their feet and we want to give something back.”
Mr Strickland said the business, which also carries out private security work, is now seeking private funding to carry out regular patrols of the Melton area.
Following the trial, the firm said it would cost £55 an hour to send out three cars every night, meaning that around £200,000 would be needed to keep them on the road for a full year.
Jamie’s fellow directors are Tony Sharman and solicitor Karina Chetwynd, who can provide round-the-clock legal advice to staff on patrol.
The cars are fitted with dashcam CCTV and employees wear body cameras to help them gather evidence if they encounter suspicious activity.
Residents are in contact with the company through their Facebook page, so patrols can respond to incidents.
Jamie added: “Our social media updates are intended as much for people in Melton who are intending to commit crime as well as the law-abiding residents.
“Clearly, there are some sceptics out there but by being transparent we hope we are allaying a lot of those fears.”
The Alarm Response Management patrols have been focused mainly around the Vale of Belvoir and they look to prevent vulnerable people, such as the elderly, from being victims of crime.
The Grimston-based service is funded through private membership subscriptions
Patrick Kavanagh, who coordinates the patrols with Stewart Brown, said: “Because we have a membership they have a say on what we do and where we patrol.
“People pay a subscription and we provide patrols and alarm systems for our members. We are in touch with the local police so they know what we are doing.”
Patrols started up last April and Mr Kavanagh said they were surprised at how positive the response had been from the public via social media.
He added: “There are a few people who don’t like what we are trying to do because they wrongly think we are trying to make a profit, but there are thousands who want to join us as members.”
But Leicestershire Police said it did not require the support of private crime patrols.
A spokesperson told the Melton Times: “Officers in Melton are already working with various partners such as the local authority, local schools, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, local charities, Leicestershire County Council, housing associations and community groups to address issues in the community.
“Additionally we are consulting with the wider public on a regular basis to identify issues and address them where a police response is proportionate.
“As a force our policy is not to endorse or validate the work of any private company.
“Companies and householders should make their own checks to ensure the legitimacy and sustainability of an organisation before deciding whether to work with them or not.”
Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Commissioner, Lord Willy Bach (pictured), is currently canvassing residents on whether they would be prepared to pay more Council Tax to provide more resources to the police force.
People have until January 18 to complete an online survey asking them if they are happy to pay an extra £1 a month.
He said: “Quite simply, we need additional funding to protect neighbourhood policing, to enable counter-terrorism activity and to invest in new technology.”
Go to www.leics.pcc.police.uk/budget-consultation to complete the survey.