POLICE have asked parents to ensure they know the whereabouts of their children after a number of serious assaults were reported during large gatherings of youths.

Groups of up to 300 youths have been gathering to drink alcohol in parks around Darlington, including South Park, Green Park and a playing field near Cummins, in Yarm Road.

Police were alerted to the issue around three months ago, when around 60 youngsters gathered in Green Park.

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However the numbers have since escalated, with the most recent meeting in South Park on Friday (October 24) attracting around 200 youths, aged between 12 and 19.

Three serious assaults have also been reported at the gatherings, and police are urging parents to ensure they know where their children are.

Inspector Mick Button, of Darlington police, said: “The question I would like to ask parents is - do you know where your child is?

“If so, prevent them please from being involved in these large groups who are drinking alcohol.”

Police believe the gatherings are being advertised on social media and are attracting youngsters from nearby towns, including Bishop Auckland.

Insp Button said officers were concerned for the safety of the youths as the gatherings take place at night, in the pitch black, and involve large amounts of alcohol.

“We are very concerned at the risk this presents to young people in Darlington – it is not a safe environment,” he added.

“I would urge all parents to ensure the whereabouts of their children.”

In response, officers are looking to work with schools in the area to educate students on the risks involved in the gatherings.

Extra police officers are also being deployed in Darlington, together with representatives from the council’s antisocial behaviour team and SWITCH, the young people’s substance misuse service.

Anyone with any information on the gatherings can call police on 101.