AUTHORITIES have outlined how they are fighting back after seeing a spike of antisocial behaviour in residential areas since the Covic-19 pandemic struck.

Darlington Borough Council’s community safety boss Councillor Jonathan Dulston said its officers were working with Durham Constabulary to respond to a ten per cent surge in reported anti-social behaviour incidents in Darlington in the six months to the end of September, compared to the same period the year before.

He said while many of the incidents were linked to alcohol and drugs, there had been a 51 per cent drop in reported antisocial behaviour incidents in the town centre over the period.

Cllr Dulston was speaking at a meeting of the council which heard members relate both residents’ frustration over antisocial behaviour and praise for crackdowns on properties being used for drugs and off-road motorbikes.

Councillor Nick Wallis said vandalism in parks and playgrounds was a “chronic problem which is repeated in ward after ward”, with some offenders using bolt cutters to wreck equipment.

He said there had been a spate of damage to equipment at Fryer’s Field, but the mobile CCTV equipment had been unable to identify offenders or deter attacks. The meeting heard play areas in Eastbourne Park, Pensbury Street and the Denes had also been repeatedly attacked.

Cllr Dulston said while some of the playground equipment had been removed by the council due to the pandemic, the council was examining ways of improving its CCTV coverage and was working on a number of community-based initiatives.

He said: “We have seen a spike in antisocial behaviour in our communities over the Covid period because people have had to adapt to different ways of interacting with people and some of those interactions haven’t been positive. Not to make an excuse, but we have seen a number of venues closed that young people would have ordinarily gone to.”

The meeting heard police were targeting some of the off-road motorbike hotspots and “visual tools” were being brought in to deter offenders, such as a video showing a seized off-road bike getting crushed.

Cllr Dulston said: “We are having some positive results and over the next couple of we hope to be getting crushed motorbikes in certain locations for people to go and see what will happen to their off-road bike if it is caught and seen by police.” He added progress was also being made over the misuse of nitrous oxide, with police and other organisations working with schools to highlight the danger of inhaling it.

Cllr Dulston said recent weeks had seen police seize more than 25,000 cannisters of nitrous oxide from an address in Darlington.