SCHOOL leavers have been warned to stay safe and on the right side of the law.

Durham police stepped up patrols in the south of the county in a bid to steer youngsters away from alcohol-fuelled trouble and dangerous water, following two river deaths in the area.

Action on Friday night, when the schools broke up for the summer holidays, was aimed at tackling street drinking and associated anti-social behaviour which tends to happen when pupils finish school for the holidays.

The operation aimed to ensure the safety of young people, particularly in light of the deaths of Cameron Gosling, 14, in the River Wear near Bishop Auckland this month and teacher Wadud Abdul in the River Tees, near Middleton-in-Teesdale, in May.

Beat teams, special constables, neighbourhood wardens, local community liaison officers and officers from the alcohol harm reduction unit were joined by Trading Standards officers and the ambulance service so end of term celebrations did not bother local residents.

Young people found under the influence of alcohol were taken to a safe place and advised about the risks of alcohol misuse while waiting for their parents to collect them.

Sergeant Jayne Burdess-Hoseason said: “We spoke to around 20 youngsters in total and made a significant number of alcohol seizures.

“It isn’t just about the nuisance the children cause when they are under the influence of alcohol, they also become much more vulnerable which puts them at increased risk.

“By running these patrols we are also aiming to keep them safe.

“We have also focused activity this time in river-side locations, so that we can spread the very important water safety messages in time for the beginning of the school holidays.”

She urged parents to support the force’s efforts over the summer months by making suitable arrangements for their children when they are not in school.

Sgt Burdess-Hoseason added: “We would also urge them to be responsible and not buy drink for underage people.”

Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, also added his warning to young people, urging them to think twice before getting involved in behaviour which could put themselves at risk or impact negatively on others.

He said: “This applies whether they are out alone or with groups of friends and are old enough to take responsibility for their own actions.”

Similar patrols will be held across County Durham throughout the summer.