TAXI drivers in Consett are to act as the eyes and ears of the police as part of a campaign to tackle trouble in the town centre over Christmas.

Cabbies who spot bother when picking up revellers late and night and in the early hours have agreed to radio into their offices.

Staff at the ranks have walkie talkie contact with CCTV operators at Project Genesis and cameras will then focus on potential crimes being committed to gather evidence, which could form the basis of prosecutions.

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There have been several violent attacks outside night spots in recent years, as well regular instances of drunk and disorderly behaviour and criminal damage.

PCSO Scott Ruddick said: “The idea is that they are an extra set of eyes and ears on the streets to give us a better chance of identifying suspects on CCTV and the ability to get there when there is something on going.

“We do not expect them to be involved in stopping people or getting involved in disorder.”

Four out of the five taxi firms which operate in Consett have signed up to the initiative, including Jackson’s, Neasham’s, Atlas and L&M Taxis.

It is understood A1 Cabs has not agreed to take part.

Mandy Scott, 44, from Castleside, near Consett, who owns Jackson’s said: “It should reduce the crime in certain areas so all of the drivers are keen to muck in. If they see someone walking down Front Street with a cone on his head or people fighting it will be dealt with a lot quicker.”

It is also hoped that a direct link to the police means it will be safer for taxi drivers working throughout the night.

Jim McGuigan, 54, from Blackhill, who has been a driver for ten years, said: “It will keep crime off the streets and help the police.

“I work the hard rounds over the weekend and we do get some numpties in.

“We rarely have anything major, but I do think it will be a good for all of the drivers.”