NEIGHBOURHOOD wardens patrolling the streets of Darlington have helped police cut crime by 40 per cent in some areas of the town.

Three wardens are working with beat officers in Darlington to look out for burglars and give crime prevention advice.

The scheme is one of the first in the UK to mount professional warden patrols alongside the police.

The move to introduce wardens was taken by Darlington Borough Council and the Darlington Community Safety Partnership, in a bid to combat crime and the fear of crime.

Wardens patrol with beat officers focusing particularly on older terraced properties, which are often seen as easier targets by burglars.

Since the scheme was launched, crime in the areas where the wardens patrol, North Road, The Denes and South Park, has dropped by 40 per cent.

Inspector Dennis Dixon, of Darlington Community Safety Partnership, said the neighbourhood wardens had made a real impact in tackling crime.

"Working alongside beat officers, the wardens are offering practical advice on crime prevention, and their high-profile uniformed presence is an effective deterrent to criminals," he said.

Bill Dixon, Darlington council's cabinet member for social services, said he was delighted that the partnership was bringing positive results.

"We have helped the police cut the crime rate, and we have reduced the fear of crime to make people feel safer in their homes," he said.

People living in the area where crime has fallen have praised the wardens.

Michael Kish, who lives in North Road, said: "It is good to know that we have dedicated people patrolling our streets and helping to reduce crime."

Home Office Crime Reduction Programme Grant funding was used to launch the warden scheme.

Bids have now been submitted to the Government for money for a further five wardens.

The wardens have radio contact with the town's police station and with the town centre closed-circuit security television system's control room.

They are trained to deal with anti-social behaviour and can issue fixed penalty fines for some offences, including littering and dog fouling.