POLICE in County Durham are giving extra support to people who suffer repeatedly from domestic violence or racist attacks.

The force is extending a "traffic light" system that it runs for people whose homes are targeted by burglars.

The move follows the Macpherson report into the murder of the black South London teenager Stephen Lawrence, which recommended measures to deal with racist incidents.

It also comes in the wake of reports that have revealed a high level of domestic violence in homes across the country, much of which is never reported to the police.

The traffic light system was introduced in 1997 for house burglaries, and is so called because break-ins trigger responses coded green, amber and red.

The responses range from giving security advice, to providing personal attack alarms to victims, and the scheme is credited with reducing burglaries in the county.

Anyone officially classed as a victim of domestic violence, or a racist incident, more than once in 12 months, will receive extra attention from the police, who will take measures to prevent further offences.

The force aims to help racist attack victims by providing an interpreter if needed, help from Victim Support, and carrying out regular checks on the progress of a case.

Detective Superintendent Ian Scott, head of the county's CID, said: "Those people unfortunate enough to have been targeted on a repeat basis need to get the best support we can offer.

"The repeat victimisation strategy has made a real impact in helping reduce the number of house burglaries.

"By extending the scheme to cover those on the receiving end of other offences we aim to make a similar impact."

In October, the Metropolitan Police in London estimated that a rape, beating or stabbing happens in a British home every six seconds and that police receive more than 570,000 calls about domestic violence each year.

Darlington and Durham Racial Equality Council says incidents of racist abuse and attacks in the county have risen from 30 three years ago to 178 last year.

It says Darlington alone has had a 300 per cent rise in incidents.

The council, which is based in Darlington, is opening an office in Durham next year