REPORTS of anti social behaviour outside two leisure centres have started to fall after police and staff vowed to tackle the problem.

Residents complained to beat officers about the behaviour of youths hanging around the centres at both Ferryhill and Spennymoor at a series of Pact (police and communities together) meetings.

The neighbourhood police teams in both areas made tackling the issue one of their key priorities and in recent weeks have seen a reduction in complaints.

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At Spennymoor, youngsters who congregate near the Durham County Council facility were blamed for damage to surrounding brick walls.

And at Ferryhill Community Hub, which has been run by volunteers since September 2012, there have been reports of young people causing a nuisance by drinking alcohol and littering.

In response, beat officers have increased patrols in both areas and work with staff at the centres and Durham County Council wardens and youth workers.

Neighbourhood Inspector Graham Milne said: “Half the issue is understanding the problem.

“We talk to young people, find out what they are doing. Sometimes they have been to an activity or club at the venue or say they are bored so we direct them to services they can engage in.

“If their behaviour is unacceptable it will be dealt with.

“Behaviour they see as joking around might be perceived differently to people walking past, they might feel intimidated or frightened.”

Inspector Milne said if there is evidence of underage drinking officers try to establish how the youths got hold of alcohol- be it from parents, an older friend or bought locally- and take appropriate action.

Officers often contact parents to inform them of their children’s actions and have set up meetings between youngsters and staff at Spennymoor Leisure Centre, who were among complainants, which has helped create an understanding between different generations and reduced the problem.

Brian Gibson, secretary at Ferryhill Community Hub, said: “It certainly was a problem but we’ve installed additional security cameras and tried to get the youths into the Hub and taking part in what is on rather than loitering outside.

“Our activities, especially the boxing academy, are now helping to get kids off the street and into something constructive and healthy.”