DOZENS of empty houses will be boarded up in the latest move designed to tackle crime in two towns.

As part of the Home Office’s £25 million Safer Streets Fund, homes in Horden and the Northgate and North Road areas of Darlington have been entitled to free home security measures.

Further security measures have now been secured in Horden, including alarm and security cameras for empty properties to be installed by the end of March.

Targeted environmental action has also begun in Darlington, including removal of graffiti, replacement of rear gates and the fitting of defensive toppings such as trellis in rear gardens to deter criminals looking to enter properties.

These additional measures are designed to be a visual deterrent to criminals and to make streets look more attractive.

Since the safer streets initiative began, more than 1,000 people have engaged and benefitted from crime prevention advice through neighbourhood wardens, PCSOs and crime prevention leaflets.

Around 500 people have or are planned to receive security upgrades to their properties by the end of March to help reduce the chances of further incidents occurring.

The security measures offered include window locks, double door locks, plug in timers and dusk to dawn security lights and ten deployable cameras will be available for local authorities in Horden and Darlington to use as and when required.

Dozens of empty properties in Horden will be boarded up as part of the safer streets project led by the Office of the Durham, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner.

Organisers said empty properties often become the target of burglary and vandalism and it is hoped property screening will reduce such incidents.

Many of the properties are being boarded up in partnership with Durham Police’s neighbourhood policing teams and local authorities.

Durham's Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “To be able to offer these security measures to residents within Darlington and Horden is fantastic.

“Burglary can be hugely distressing to people and everyone has a right to feel safe in their own home.

“Preventing this type of crime is a priority for us and hopefully these measures can make a significant improvement to the lives of the people who live in these areas.”

The areas were selected as both have high rates of acquisitive crime, in particular burglary. Since its launch last September, the areas have the number of burglaries fall, so more households became eligible for the home improvements.

Graham Hall, Darlington Council’s head of community safety, said: “The aim of the Safer Streets Fund is to provide concentrated investment into hotspot areas to deter criminality. These straightforward, long-term solutions have benefitted many residents and will continue to make a genuine difference, preventing crime and making streets safer.

“We hope residents feel reassured that we work closely with the police to address concerns and are committed to improving the quality of life for this community.”

Work on the project has been carried out by Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council, with support from the PCVC’s office, Durham Constabulary, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and the Victim Care and Advice Service (VCAS).

Steve White, Acting Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner said: “As we approach the end of the scheme, we reflect on all the hard work put in by all Safer Street Partner organisations involved to make our communities safer and thank local residents for engaging with the Safer Streets Project.

“We hope the security measures in place have been a benefit to community safety and we will continue to aid crime prevention schemes in the future. We look forward to being involved in further Safer Street projects."

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection services, said: “We would like to thank the local community and all partners who have coordinated and engaged with the Safer Streets Project. We hope that the measures put in place have made residents feel safer in their homes.

“A large number of streets in Horden have benefitted from this scheme and we have had very positive feedback from residents. Our priority is always to make sure our county remains a safe and welcoming place to live, work and visit.”