POLICE have praised members of the public after a huge rise in calls to a confidential drink-drive hotline.

Crimestoppers in the North-East received 86 calls over the Christmas and New Year period from people wanting to "shop" a drink-driver.

It revealed that this was an increase of more than 500 per cent on last year's 15 calls, with the lure of a cash reward providing an incentive for some.

Acting Detective Sergeant Ken Parkin, of Crimestoppers' regional office in Chester-le-Street, said the calls resulted in at least five arrests and it was hoped convictions would follow.

He said: "We would like to think that some lives have been saved by these actions and they will have a long-term deterrent effect.

"There will be a number of small rewards available as a result of information given to us about drink-drivers."

The Christmas period was the first time Crimestoppers has offered rewards of up to £500 for information about drink-drivers.

However, only 15 out of the 86 callers specifically said they were interested in the cash - which, police say, demonstrated their public spirit.

The charity said it was still receiving drink-drive calls, although they had dropped off since the festive period, said Det Sgt Parkin.

Of the 86 calls in the North-East, 32 came from Cleveland, 17 from Durham and 37 from the Northumbria Police area.

The rise in calls mirrored the national picture, which saw more than 1,700 people call the charity between December 15 and 31. This was up 240 per cent on the previous year. Nationally, 51 arrests were made from the calls.

Crimestoppers says its drink-drive scheme was so successful that it may be extended throughout the year.

Anyone caught and convicted of drink-driving can face a £2,500 fine, up to three months in prison and a lengthy ban.

Crimestoppers can be contacted on (0800) 555111.