UNDER-age drinking is a blight on Derwentside and will no longer be tolerated, police have said.

Durham Constabulary is to work with local courts and Derwentside District Council to launch a crackdown on drink-related anti-social behaviour.

Police believe that most crime and disorder in the district is caused by under-age or excessive drinking.

Tomorrow, the partnership will unveil a wide-reaching enforcement strategy governing the sale and consumption of alcohol.

The leader of the district council, Councillor Alex Watson, said the strategy was a major step forward in tackling issues that were affecting the quality of life of Derwentside residents.

He said: "The council has a balancing act to perform."

"On the one hand, weighing up the needs and wishes of the licensing trade and its customers, while on the other, the interests of residents in our town and village centres.

"I believe the strategy goes a long way to ensuring any conflict is kept to a minimum and that the licensed trade can coexist with neighbouring residents, to the benefit of the district as a whole."

Councillor Liz Coulson, chairwoman of the council's licensing committee, said that the authority will use new Government legislation to give the council responsibility for all liquor licensing matters by next year.

"The strategy's launch is a clear and timely demonstration of the commitment and determination of the council and police to act in the interests of the safety and welfare of both customers and the community," she said.

All of Derwentside's 250 licensees are expected to attend the launch of the crackdown, at a meeting in Consett Civic Hall at noon tomorrow.

The measures will include council officers and police stepping up visits to licensed premises, test purchase operations to catch out anyone selling alcohol to youngsters, and seizing alcohol from juveniles caught drinking in public.

The partnership will also be promoting proof-of-age schemes and the Pub Watch. There will be a united approach to processing licence applications and joint training and development for all officers engaged in licensing duties.

Chief Superintendent Ian Irwin, of Durham Constabulary, said: "We are fully committed to partnership working to reduce incidents of crime and disorder in the area. And given the obvious link between alcohol and offending, this strategy is a major step forward."