TRADITIONAL traffic wardens in Darlington have been replaced as part of a pilot scheme.

The town has become the first in the region to have community support officers (CSOs), who have replaced wardens.

Darlington Police have been given £114,000 from the Home Office to fund the scheme, which allows officers more powers than traditional wardens.

As well as traffic-related problems, the community support officers will deal with environmental matters, such as issuing fixed penalty notices for dog fouling and littering. The CSOs will also deal with anti-social behaviour and they will have the power to confiscate alcohol from under-age drinkers.

The new role also allows the ten officers employed in the borough to confiscate vehicles that cause alarm in public places, such as motorbikes in parks. But there will be limitations on their powers.

Sergeant Ian Martin, of Darlington police, said: "One of the powers they have not got is the power to detain anyone.

"The community support officers have all completed three weeks of training followed by another three weeks tutored by beat officers.

"We discovered through a best value review that traffic wardens did a wide variety of roles but were not recognised for actually doing them.

"We wanted to get away from the yellow traffic warden image as that was a small part of what they were doing.

"They were doing a lot of work to improve the community. It is part of a Government idea."

Darlington police are piloting the scheme for Durham Constabulary and the initiative could operate county-wide if it is successful.

The officers will patrol the streets between 8am and 10pm, seven days a week, carrying out various duties.

The yellow outfits worn by traffic wardens have been replaced by royal blue uniforms and reflective overcoats.

Sgt Martin said: "The officers are out on the street now and they have been given dedicated beat areas.

"They will have high visibility to be able to deal with community issues and they will work very closely with beat police officers."

Anybody wanting to contact the community support officers is asked to call (01325) 346839.