SENIOR police officers are celebrating a dramatic fall in the number of walk-in burglaries in Darlington over Christmas and the New Year.

The police launched Operation Velvet in November, with the aim of reducing break-ins at homes and garages in the Darlington area over the holiday period.

The initiative has proved a big success, with police recording a 22 per cent drop in those types of crime in December, compared with the same period in the previous year.

Figures for November last year, compared with the period 12 months earlier, were even more impressive, showing a 32 per cent fall. The statistics have delighted those behind the operation and they insist that the same approach will be taken in the New Year.

Detective Inspector Ian Phillips, of Darlington police, said: "We are very pleased with what we have achieved but we need to make everybody aware of the dangers of doors and ground floor windows being left open, especially as the dark nights are still with us."

As well as urging residents to take measures to prevent break-ins, police are also encouraging people to report suspicious behaviour.

That extra vigilance paid off last month, when a number of people were arrested in connection with burglaries in the Haughton and Red Hall areas.

Darlington Borough Council has also indicated its delight at figures showing a decrease in car crime last year.

Up to November 30, there was a fall of 18.3 per cent in thefts of vehicles in the town, compared with the same period in the previous year.

There was also a 30.8 per cent decrease in thefts from vehicles - a success the council says was supported by closed-circuit TV monitoring in the town centre.

Councillor Stephen Harker, cabinet member for community protection, said: "These results are very encouraging and underline the significant contribution made by the council's CCTV system in helping to reduce car crime."