DOZENS of yellow balloons were released last week to herald the shake-up of a charity that helps 17,000 victims of crime every year in County Durham.

Victim Support offers support to witnesses and victims of crime by helping them to regain their confidence, steering them through the often bewildering legal system and providing them with counselling.

Last Thursday the charity was relaunched following a massive restructuring of its services in the area.

The running of Victim Support's seven community and five court-based branches will now be done by a new area board made up of representatives from all of the branches.

To mark the event, 91 balloons were released, representing the number of victims and witnesses helped by Victim Support in County Durham and Darlington every day.

The charity originally planned to release 17,000 balloons, symbolising the number of victims and witnesses helped each year, but air traffic controllers feared that such a number of balloons would pose a hazard to passing aircraft.

The streamlining was done to help the charity to meet the enormous demand for its service and work more effectively with other organisations.

Area manager Trudi Ranson said: "Direct victim contact is the core work of the charity and the new area board appreciates there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.

As the only agency which deals with all levels and types of offences there is a massive demand for our services."