A POLICE officer is in line for an award for his efforts in setting up a community police house on a troubled estate near Bishop Auckand.

PC Brian Coates spearheaded the project to adapt a house on the Leazes Lane estate, at St Helen Auckland, into a mini police station.

Since it opened in July, it has led to a marked drop in crime.

PC Coates has been nominated, with 35 officers across the country, for the Community Police Officer of the Year title.

Home Secretary Jack Straw will present the prizes at the ceremony in London on December 20, which PC Coates will be attending with Durham Constabulary's Chief Constable, George Hedges.

A third of the 300 houses on the estate have been boarded up, and residents have been plagued by vandalism and drug problems.

PC Coates, 36, said the police house and officers' work with Wear Valley District Council and local schools had led to the reduction in crime.

"The aim of it was to give residents a local police presence and reassurance, and there has been a lot of good which has come from it," he said.

"The crime figures from last month were down 19 per cent on the previous month, and it is due to a lot of hard work with other people, such as the schools."

He said there had been a reduction in vandalism and criminal damage after officers had gone into schools, talked to the children and run initiatives, including a poster competition.

Officers are nominated for the Community Police Officer of the Year Award by their forces and judged on personal skills, initiative and working relationship with the community.

PC Coates said winning the Durham Constabulary nomination was a "great honour."

"I'm just pleased it's reflected the work we've done, and it's having a good effect on the area," he said.

There will be a Community Awareness Day at the police house tomorrow, from 2pm to 6pm, when people can ask about crime prevention, community safety, the police and fire safety