POLICE have hailed the success of a multi-agency operation aimed at reducing crime and anti-social behaviour among Year 11 school leavers.

Schools across Darlington broke up for half-term on Friday, with hundreds of teenagers finishing regular lessons for good.

They will return for their final GCSE exams before the summer break, but Friday was the last day of regular school for hundreds of teenagers.

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With school-leaving parties taking place across the borough, police were concerned about potential drunken and anti-social behaviour.

But Sergeant Dave Kirton, of the Darlington neighbourhood police team, said officers' decision to play a 'supportive role, as opposed to an enforcement one', paid off.

He said just two teenagers were taken to a place of safety for being intoxicated, a figure that has been much higher in previous years.

About 200 school leavers gathered for an impromptu party at Broken Scar picnic area, in Coniscliffe Road, on Friday.

Officers attended and set up a mobile police station a short distance away, from which they were able to monitor proceedings.

Sgt Kirton said: "The incidents on Friday evening, compared to previous years, were so minimal it was unbelievable.

"We were tipped off that this was taking place, so we set up the mobile police station and told the kids to come and talk to us if there was any issues.

"We seized some alcohol, but realistically we were never going to get it all.

"So we gave them a pep-talk, told them to be sensible.

"At about 9.45pm, just as it was getting dark, we walked them back through the woods and they dispersed in an orderly manner, in small groups.

"We engaged with young people from early in the evening, playing a supportive role, as opposed to an enforcement one. It was a really great success."

Secondary schools in Darlington - including Hummersknott, Longfield, Carmel and Darlington School of Mathematics and Science - signed up to the operation.

Police worked together with several partners, including Darlington Borough Council's youth services department and anti-social behaviour team, as well as County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.

Anna Willey, the council's anti-social behaviour manager, agreed that the operation had been successful.

She said partners identified potential hot-spots, such as Broken Scar, and targeted resources around those areas.

Skerningham Woods, in the Glebe Road area of Darlington, was another hot-spot, said Mrs Willey.