A GENERAL election candidate has called for more to be done to tackle vandalism and theft at a Darlington graveyard after another spate of incidents.

Liberal Democrat Mike Barker said Darlington Borough Council and the police have failed to protect the graves at West Cemetery despite repeated complaints from grieving relatives.

Graves have been vandalised, flowers and mementos have been taken and a headstone was even stolen since the trouble began a number of years ago.

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A Facebook group calling for CCTV to be installed at the site has attracted more than 8,000 members, but the council claims the equipment would not work.

Mr Barker said he has received complaints from people who had their relatives graves targeted over Easter.

Every week it seems that memorials are damaged, flowers, flower baskets and other mementoes stolen, he said.

Over Easter, lights, flowers, pots, baskets and soft toys have all been stolen.

Relatives of people buried in West Cemetery are angry at the apparent unwillingness or inability of both the police and the council to protect their loved-ones graves.

Despite meetings with council staff and the police, no action has been taken by the authorities to deal with this.

Mr Barker said he will arrange a meeting with the cemetery manager to discuss what action can be taken to stop the problems. He added that people are considering getting in touch with the private security firm Sparta Security to police the site. Rachel Francis has a number of relatives buried at the site. She said she plans to send out a newsletter to ask people who have had their loved ones graves damaged to get in touch.

There has been a number of incidents and memorial stones have been damaged quite badly, she said.

On a weekly basis property is stolen from graves up there.

When we were up there the other day an old lady came over and told us she has had things stolen from her grand-daughters grave.

It can not go on.

A spokeswoman for the council said: The council works closely with the police and families and has met with them to discuss these issues.

Where an increase in vandalism or thefts has occurred, the police have stepped up their patrols. The council has also painted the cemetery walls with anti-vandalism paint and has erected warning signs.

The installation of CCTV cameras has been discussed as an option but is not seen as a practical or effective deterrent to the problem.

It is always distressing when any amount of vandalism or theft occurs at the grave of a loved one and we are keen to work with families and the police to stamp out what is one of the most insensitive forms of crime.