AN anti-burglary initiative which ran for four months across Sedgefield borough has delivered excellent results, police have said.

Operation Lancelot was designed to combat burglaries during the long winter nights.

Statistics show there is a rise in the number of burglaries during the period between November and February.

Last year, there were 149 offences, but this year the figure has been reduced by 24 per cent to 113.

Police are confident that when figures are published in April, house burglary will have fallen further, reinforcing Sedgefield borough's position as one of the safest places in the country to live.

Operation Lancelot has proved such a success that it is now being considered as a template to run throughout the Durham Constabulary area later this year.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Pearson, chairman of the Sedgefield Burglary Action Group, said: "The success of this operation is recognition of the hard work that has been put in by everyone, including members of the community. This reduction in house burglary is pleasing to see for all members of the action group who have participated in this initiative."

The operation has also seen clear-up rates for burglary increase by 38 per cent.

Targeted operations and pro-active police work have resulted in the arrest of 17 suspected offenders.

Police crime prevention officer Neil Langthorne said: "I have seen an enthusiastic response from the community and a willingness to invest in home security measures, such as burglar alarms, lighting and improved window and door locks.

"The public have a vital role to play and this has been a contributing factor."

Neighbourhood Watch has played a vital part in the success of the operation.

There has been a significant increase in schemes and in the number of houses covered by schemes in the borough area.

Sarah Norman, Neighbourhood Watch manager for the area, said: "I have spent time out supporting local groups and actively targeting residents in the higher crime areas."