POLICE are hopeful the public has taken heed of warnings about the risks of an online dare and drinking craze.

Emergency services and counsellors in the North-East have voiced concerns about the Neknominate game- for which participants complete a drinking challenge, post videos of the prank on social media and nominate someone else to join in.

In recent weeks the craze has seen a woman ride a horse into a Bishop Auckland supermarket, a lifeboat alert triggered when a boy said he would jump off Saltburn pier and another boy in the region try to set his hair on fire.

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On Tuesday (February 11), a partially dressed man entered McDonald’s at St Helen Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, and threw a live chicken over the counter.

Due to hygiene concerns, customers were evacuated and the restaurant was closed while staff disposed of food and cleaned the area.

The man was arrested for criminal damage, relating to the ruined food, and has since written a letter of apology to staff and agreed to pick up litter near the restaurant.

Neknominate has been linked to the deaths of five young men in the UK.

Inspector Martin Peace, of Bishop Auckland neighbourhood police team, said: “If people want to do this sensibly in their own home that is one thing but when it involves a criminal or public order offence it will be dealt with as such.

“People have died.

“Alcohol mixed with stupid stunts can be a dangerous combination or at the very least an inconvenience to people who don’t see it as a joke.

“People need to remember that.

“But it does seem to have changed, it seems people are taking the advice to keep it safe and light-hearted.

“I’ve heard of some who have turned it around and set a sponsored walk for charity as the challenge which makes much more sense to me.”

To raise awareness, officers from Durham police and teachers have spoken to youngsters at King James I Academy, Bishop Barrington School and St John’s School and Sixth Form College, all in Bishop Auckland, and Staindrop School, near Barnard Castle.

Insp Peace added: “We seemed to get through to pupils, working with school staff to put forward quite a hard message about the dangers and trouble they could find themselves in.”