UNDER-age drinkers across County Durham and Darlington are the target of a major campaign launched today (Tuesday, July 8).

Durham Constabulary’s Operation ARIES is believed to be the first time a force has worked with all its local Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) simultaneously.

The force-wide initiative follows successful pilots in Stanley and Peterlee that saw significant alcohol seizures, increased referrals to 4Real, the drug and alcohol service for young people, and a fall in alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

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Operation ARIES will involve organisations including health bodies, trading standards and schools.

Repeat offenders will be monitored and given ‘three strikes”. They will be prosecuted If they are stopped with alcohol three times in 12 months and refuse help and support.

Patrols will look for groups of under-age drinkers, seize alcohol and refer intoxicated youngsters to 4Real.

Intelligence-led test purchase operations will be run at licensed premises, such as pubs and shops, and anyone caught buying drink for an under-18 will get a £90 fixed penalty.

Warning letters will be sent to adults suspected of doing this.

It will also feature Staysafe operations where vulnerable young people are taken to a safe place until parents or guardians collect them.

Sergeant Mick Urwin, of Durham's alcohol harm reduction unit and Operation ARIES lead, said: “We are confident Operation ARIES will build on the successes of the two schemes already run in Stanley and Peterlee and lead to reductions in under-age drinking and alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour across the force area.

“We are adopting a far more joined-up approach with the support of retailers and schools, as well as partner agencies and organisations.”

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, said: “Tackling the harm caused by alcohol and drugs is one of the policing priorities, voted for by the public, which I have tasked the chief constable to deliver in my Police and Crime Plan.

“The knock-on effects of under-age drinking to individuals and local communities can be severe and this force-wide approach will bring positive changes in attitudes and behaviour for all concerned.”

Anyone with information or concerns about under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour can contact the force via e-mail at aries@durham.police.uk