AN operation to remove unlicensed vehicles from the streets of south Durham has been hailed a great success.

Sedgefield police launched Operation Daggerboard in partnership with Sedgefield Borough Council and the DVLA at the start of the month.

The operation is part of the strategic local partnership vehicle action group's aim to reduce vehicle crime in the area.

During the three days of the operation a total of 51 unlicensed vehicles were towed away from the Shildon, Spennymoor and Ferryhill areas.

A further ten unlicensed vehicles, found not to be on a highway, were treated as abandoned vehicles and 24-hour removal notices were placed on them.

Crime Prevention officer PC Peter Maddison, who co-ordinated the operation, said: "The operation has been a great success, and the next is already planned.

"The DVLA has offered to come to our area on a regular basis. We intend to take advantage of that offer and roll the operation out throughout the Sedgefield police area."

Chief Inspector Ian Coates, of Newton Aycliffe police, said: "It is often the case that a car is not taxed because it is not insured and does not have a valid MOT test certificate.

"This operation is valuable for tracking down those cars which are potentially dangerous on our roads."

The council's environmental health service manager, Eric Beevers, said: "There are estimated to be 15,000 unlicensed vehicles in Durham County costing £1.7m in lost revenue.

"The quicker that any vehicle, be it untaxed or abandoned can be removed, the better. This will reduce the chance of these vehicles being involved in anti-social behaviour and crime. In particular it is hoped that the numbers of burnt out vehicles in the borough will be reduced."

Wear Valley District Council launched a similar scheme with the DVLA and local police in December last year, called Operation Clampdown.

To date the operation has netted 93 road tax dodgers.

To report untaxed vehicles write, in confidence, to The DVLA, St Mark's House, St Mark's Court, Thornaby, TS17 6QR, or call 0870 2400669.