NEW security measures have been put in place on allotment sites across Bishop Auckland to help combat crime.

A colour-coded property marking scheme and Smartwater is now being used by allotment holders on the 16 sites in the area. CCTV is also in operation.

The measures, which have been funded by Bishop Auckland and Shildon AAP, have been brought in after police saw a spike in crime when the clocks went back last year.

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Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator John Raw said: “The idea is to drive down crime and improve public confidence. This scheme will help with the detection of crime.”

Each site has been given a unique colour for allotment holders to spray on their property so that if it is stolen and subsequently recovered it is easier to identify where it came from.

The property will be handed the site secretary who will then be tasked with reuniting it with its rightful owner.

South Church Allotment holder Doug Hatton, who has had his shed broken into three times, said: “We don’t have anything of high value. Often they just make such a mess. Hopefully this will make a difference.

“The Smartwater stops us getting the prolific offenders while the opportunists don’t realise they could be caught at any time.”

DC Emma McCabe, of Bishop Auckland police, said something needed to be done to stop the “mindless vandalism” taking place on allotments.

She said in October last year there was a noticeable rise with one particular site suffering four incidents in six weeks.

“Property has been marked and if it is taken it will be easier to link it back to the right location.

“We are asking people to remain vigilant and ensure all property is kept out of sight.”

Mayor of Bishop Auckland councillor David Fleming said: “It is nice to see everyone working together to tackle this problem because there are a lot of people who spent a lot of leisure time on these allotments.”

Anyone with any information about allotment thefts is asked to call Bishop Auckland police station on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.