MONEY seized from criminals is being handed out to more than 50 community groups thanks to a scheme led by Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

More than £54,000 has been raised after stolen items such as pedal bikes, satellite navigation systems, and jewellery - which can not be traced back to an owner - were all sent to auction and the proceeds made available to the Police Property Act Fund.

One £346 grant has proved priceless to grassroots football enthusiasts as South Bank Football Community Association has just taken delivery of a new pitch line marker for community matches.

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The new pristine white lines will also be in place when the 125-year-old Ellis Cup competition returns to the pitches on Harcourt Road, South Bank in July this year.

Peter Livingstone, who helps to run the association, said: “A pitch marker may seem like nothing but we have been using a second hand one for fifteen years and despite a lot of Blue Peter style repairs I’m sad to say its time is done.

“The grant has been tremendous for us; the new equipment is going to reduce the time it takes to paint the lines by a third so we’re really pleased.”

Grants ranging from about £200 to over £5000 have supported vulnerable people, domestic abuse victims, youth projects and one-off community events.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “This fund is one in the back of the net against criminals, and the grant to South Bank Football Association is prime example of that.

“Most of these items are recovered through drugs raids, arrest warrants or vehicle searches and the proceeds are now not funding thieves’ lavish lifestyles but are put back into the pockets of the good people of Teesside.”