A SERIES of anti-burglary offensives is being mounted by police in an attempt to halt the seasonal upsurge in house break-ins caused by the long, dark nights.

A four-month operation, codenamed Lancelot, is being planned across Sedgefield borough, focusing on a series of crime hot spots.

Detectives have promised a key part of the campaign will be to target known offenders living in the area and to monitor their habits.

But the operation, which will provide extra support for victims, also aims to build on the active support of local councils, housing organisations, Neighbourhood Watch schemes and the public at large.

Det Chief Insp Colin Pearson, who is co-ordinating the project, said analysis of offending over the last two years confirmed the number of house burglaries in some months doubled at a time when other areas of reported crime was falling.

Patterns of offending established that some communities were particularly vulnerable and these areas will be receiving close attention.

He said: "Thieves operate under the cover of darkness that the winter nights provide and the sole aim of our operations will be to reverse this seasonal invasion of people's homes and the misery it leaves in its wake.

"As well as the combined police operations against the persistent offenders responsible for the majority of these offences, we also plan to develop partnerships with various organisations to help people help themselves."

Meetings with representatives of key groups have already been fixed, while crime prevention specialists have examined the areas most at risk and have offered advice on how householders can protect against attack.

Mr Pearson said: "Leaflets spelling out what can be done are being given out in the worst affected areas and security equipment will be available for purchase via the police crime reduction unit."

High profile patrols will be mounted by uniformed officers during the course of the campaign, supported by Sedgefield Borough Council's Community Force.

Mr Pearson said: "Officers will go where the need is greatest and we will be carefully monitoring and evaluating everything we do.

"We can't guarantee success, but the thieves and those who handle stolen property should be warned we are determined to make these operations succeed.