POLICE in Derwentside are appealing to the public to help them clamp down on youngsters vandalising schools in the summer holidays.

Consett and Stanley police are this week distributing leaflets to every house near schools in the Derwentside area before the start of the holidays.

This is the first time the strategy has been employed in the annual campaign to reduce vandalism in schools during the six-week break.

Sgt David Scott, of Consett Police Community Safety Depart- ment, said that increasing pat-rols in the vicinity of schools did not often work as officers were simply called away on everyday police work.

Instead, he is hoping to recruit a secret army of neighbours in the effort to prevent crime in school grounds. He said: "Our schools are administered locally and they run on tight budgets. They can ill-afford the extra cost of repairs and the replacement of stolen or damaged property.

"We hope that people living in the vicinity of schools will telephone the local police station to report incidents occuring on school property over the summer holiday period. Our officers have been briefed to deal positively with such incidents."

Sgt Scott has told headteachers in every secondary and primary school in the district, including the 15 in the Consett and Stanley areas, of the plan. He also aims to discover what heads consider acceptable behav- iour for children using the school grounds in the holiday period.

The leaflet to be distributed to school neighbours reads: "We all have to pay for crime in school, especially our children who have their education disrupted. All you need to do is keep a watchful eye over the school and its grounds. If you see anything suspicious, or an incident that concerns you, then report it to the police."

Residents who call Consett or Stanley police stations will not have to give their names. Con-sett police can be contacted on (01207) 504204 and Stanley on (01207) 232144.