AN “ANGRY and frustrated” group of ex-marines, soldiers and teachers have set up a neighbourhood watch group in an effort to cut crime – but police have warned residents against taking the law into their own hands.

The SO19 Neighbourhood Watch group was set up by an “angry and frustrated” father after thieves reportedly tried to break into his home as his pregnant wife slept.

Hampshire Constabulary says it understands residents frustrations but insisted that it is the only organisation that is trained and equipped to deal with crime.

Volunteers split up into teams and patrol the streets of Thornhill, Sholing, Weston and Woolston on foot or in cars.

Patrolling from around midnight until the “early hours” they take photos and post them on social media to show where they have been patrolling.

After setting up a Facebook page last Friday it now has over 2,000 likes.

Made up teachers, pensioners, ex-marines and soldiers, volunteers flag “suspicious” activities and pass on information to the police.

A spokesperson for the group said: “I started alone out of desperation. Because of a lack of police and because there have been so many knifepoint robberies in Thornhill. We don’t crack skulls, we’re not vigilantes.

“We hope it will lead to more prosecutions and we want harsher sentences.

A similar group called the “Wolf Pack” was set up in the last month to help combat motorbike thefts in and around Bitterne.

It reports incidents to the police and reunites owners with stolen vehicles.

District Commander, Superintendent Kelly Whiting said: “We are aware of the SO19 Neighbourhood Watch community Facebook page and we met with members last week to discuss their intentions and give safety advice.

“We understand that communities want to be proactive citizens and work together to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour so we promote active citizenship, however, we do not condone vigilantism.

“Police are the only organisation that is specially trained and equipped to respond to crime and emergencies.

“We believe the group that manages the Facebook page understand this and that they are concerned with theft, damage and anti-social behaviour offences and want to help the police in addressing these concerns. We have explained, with fewer resources, we have to prioritise offences that cause the most harm, those are the most serious violence, domestic abuse and serious sexual offences.

"We will always deploy to these kinds of offences. We ask that people are mindful not to take the law into their own hands or publish information on social media that put themselves or other people at risk.”

MP for Southampton, Itchen, Royston Smith, said: “We seem to be seeing an upturn in criminality lately and that is why the Prime Minister has announced a further 20,000 new police officers on top of the 3000 nationwide already coming through the system.”