POLICE have seized more than 20 vehicles in a crackdown on rogue scrap dealers and metal thefts.

Over the last six weeks, officers in Hetton-le-Hole, Easington Lane and East Rainton have clamped down on a range of crimes as part of Operation Avalanche.

A total of 22 cars and vans have so far been stopped and taken off the roads for various offences as officers work with Sunderland City Council to tackle crime spikes and address any community concerns.

The recent activity falls under Operation Avalanche, which was launched in January to specifically tackle anti-social behaviour and other issues which had been raised by residents.

Since the launch, uniformed and plain-clothed cops, along with ward councillors and the council’s anti-social behaviour officers, have carried out dedicated patrols in problem areas to detect and disrupt crime, stop and search suspects and offer reassurance to residents.

With the number of reports of youth-related anti-social behaviour and lead thefts having also dropped significantly in recent weeks, officers believe the hard work and teamwork shown is reaping rewards.

Inspector Nick Gjorven, of Northumbria Police, said: “Operation Avalanche was launched in the Hetton area to tackle the issues identified by our communities.

“We’ve spoken with a number of residents about what they were seeing, and a lot of hard work has gone into tackling a range of crimes including anti-social behaviour, unlicensed scrap vans and lead thefts.

“My message to the people of Hetton, Easington Lane and surrounding areas is one of reassurance. We have made great strides so far but our work is not done, and we will continue to patrol problem areas and deal with anybody involved in criminality.”

Councillor Michael Mordey, deputy leader of the city council and chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Councillor Michael Mordey, praised the ongoing work.

He said: “Operation Avalanche began earlier this year and has continued through Covid-19.

“Residents had been raising concerns and in partnership with the police, the city council has been able to target individuals involved in anti-social behaviour, unauthorised waste carrying and disposal, and illegal scrap metal merchants.

“Among many of the actions taken, the council has seized a vehicle that is suspected of being used for fly-tipping.

“We are continuing to work with Northumbria Police and the community to ensure action is taken against law breakers. An important part of our work is the community and residents sharing what they know and have seen. I’d like to thank them for all their help during Operation Avalanche.

“Their information is treated in absolute confidence and is helping make everybody safer.”