Police have sent a strong message to offenders in a County Durham town where residents have warned of continuing anti-social behaviour, insisting they will continue to punish those responsible. 

Residents in Crook said issues of criminal damage and threatening behaviour are still putting people at risk despite a police crackdown and increased safety measures. 

But Durham police say nuisance anti-social behaviour in Crook has fallen by 50 per cent since it introduced Operation Habu - a scheme working with parents to reduce nuisance anti-social behaviour often caused by youngsters.

The text-based service allows officers to contact parents directly to notify them of their child’s disruptive behaviour, often resulting in them being collected and taken home.

The figures, compared with the same three-month period from last year, is down to several problem-solving initiatives from the Neighbourhood Policing Team who are supported by Response officers, based at Crook Police Station 24/7.

Sergeant Grant Cockerill praised parents for their help in combating the problem.

“Parents and guardians have been amazing in this process and are often just normal people who are mortified when we contact them to say their child is involved in anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“Most of the time the youngsters are quickly collected and dealt with by the parents who are often more effective at getting the message across.”

For those that choose to ignore their parents’ warnings, an escalation process is in place which works with Durham County Council’s anti-social behaviour team and local housing providers to combat the wider issues. If two warning letters are ignored, the family will receive a visit from the agencies and in extreme cases, eviction notices can be issued.

“The repeat offenders are few and far between but we know this approach works in tackling the issue head-on and making it known we will not tolerate their behaviour,” Sgt Cockerill added.

“We understand being a teenager is difficult sometimes but we do reinforce that message that anti-social behaviour is not welcome in our community and will continue to work with our partner agencies to tackle it head-on.”

The Northern Echo: Glenholme Park, where residents have reported off-road bikes causing disruption to neighbours Glenholme Park, where residents have reported off-road bikes causing disruption to neighbours (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

As well as saying their pleas to the police are unheard, residents have reported a rise in off-road bikes frequenting the area, causing a nuisance to nearby homes.

It is something officers say they have also stepped up on tackling, using covert techniques to catch nuisance riders in the act. Two bikes being ridden illegally have been seized in Crook alone in the last few weeks alone and three teenagers are currently going to court charged with driving offences.

And most recently, a new initiative has also been launched through the use of WhatsApp. A WhatsApp group made up of residents, led by Teresa Alderson, and overseen by officers, has been created which allows live-time information to be shared on potential offences which then allows officers to act swiftly in catching offenders red-handed.

Sgt Cockerill said: “We saw the success of the strategy within our rural communities so decided to adopt the same communication channel for our residents who, led by Theresa, have already helped us to help them in cracking down on any potential crimes and nipping issues in the bud before they escalate.

“It is really useful to have the eyes and ears of the public to give us vital information that we can then act on as we understand many residents are still not reporting incidents which we need them to do.”

Mrs Alderson said: “The WhatsApp group is working really well because everyone is being informed and remaining vigilant - one teenager is going to court at the minute because we had sufficient photo evidence.”

“I think anti-social behaviour in the area has improved,” Mrs Alderson added. “The police can’t be everywhere at once and at least this way offences are logged and everyone is aware.”

To get involved in the WhatsApp group, email weardalebeats@durham.police.uk.

Residents can also raise any concerns at PACT meetings which are held regularly at different venues across the patch on different evenings at 6.30pm. For more information on the types of anti-social behaviour and the appropriate agency to report it to, visit Antisocial behaviour & other frequent enquiries (durham.police.uk)