INFRA-RED close circuit television cameras are to watch over a Chester-le-Street park in a bid to catch vandals and cut car crime.

Seven cameras are to provide 24-hour coverage of the Riverside Park in Chester-le-Street to monitor the car-park and the rest of the grounds.

The area is often blighted by vandalism. In the latest incident, during last Thursday night, a picnic table was razed to the ground by arsonists.

About three years ago £10,000 worth of damage was caused to the children's play area. A fire had been started in a bin, which spread to play equipment.

Now Chester-le-Street District Council is confident its new CCTV coverage will deter criminals and help catch offenders.

Because there is not sufficient lighting in all areas of the park, three of the cameras will have infra-red detection, which will allow them to pick up images in the dark.

Ian Simon, leisure services manager, said: "The park will be watched 24 hours with the infra-red cameras.

"We do suffer from vandalism. The frequency tends to fluctuate, some of it is seasonal and some is just sporadic.

"It happens certain times of the year, then goes away. We've had vandalism to buildings and ticket machines and vehicles.

"It hasn't been getting any worse, but we would certainly expect the CCTV system will deter people and detect them. It should also increase people's sense of personal safety."

The cameras, which are currently being installed, will beam back to the council's central control room at Chester-le-Street police station.