People in Sidmouth say they may hire private security after local police were unable to respond to a disturbance in the early hours.
It follows an incident during carnival week when residents living in seafront flats were intimidated by youths.
They were climbing on scaffolding, running past bedroom windows and trying to get in through fire escapes.
The residents hired a private firm and some are suggesting the town pays for a private police force.
Brian Taylor, a tenant of the flats at Trinity Court, was told local officers were dealing with a fight in Axminster when he called police during the carnival last month.
Police were sent from Seaton, by which time the youths had moved on.
Mr Taylor said having failed to be assured police could offer protection in the event of a repeat incident tenants had decided to pay for a private security firm for the remainder of the carnival.
He felt a private police force was the long-term answer to what he sees as a lack of beat officers.
He said: "I am angry that the police could not give cover.
"I told them: 'We have the fair going on, but they said we cannot guarantee cover'."
Insp Jim Gale of Devon and Cornwall Police, said he would be speaking to Mr Taylor.
He said: "Our resources have to cover a very wide area in east Devon and from time to time they are tied up with urgent high-priority jobs.
"That means that deployment to other jobs is not as quick as we would like."
He warned against residents hiring private security.
"There are real risks with private policing," he said.
"They don't have police powers and won't be subject to the same vetting procedures that police staff are subject to.
"Would residents really know who is looking through their windows at night?"