ADULTS who buy alcohol for underage drinkers could face a £1,000 fine as part of a scheme to stamp out underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The Crook, Willington and Dales Off-Licence Watch met for the first time last week and vowed that customers who flout the law could be banned from shops in the area.

The scheme is backed by Durham County Council trading standards and Wear Valley District Council, and will expand on the successful Pubwatch scheme.

One of the main targets will be adults who are entering stores to buy alcohol for teenagers.

One woman, who runs an off-licence in the Crook area, said: "We have groups of young girls hanging around who manage to flutter their eyelashes at a passer-by, who will then come in and buy the drink for them.

"I always ask if they are buying the drink for themselves, but they say yes. I have followed them sometimes and seen them handing over the drink.

"I have shouted and confiscated the drink, but you can only do that so often and it gets too much."

The meeting at Wear Valley District Council offices in Crook was attended by area police Inspector George Ledger, beat officer Sergeant Dave Ashton and Community Safety Sergeant Mick Hutchinson, who pledged police support to the scheme.

Insp Ledger said: "We need to work together and keep the lines of communication open.

"There is only so much we can do and we rely on the information given to us."

It is hoped members will exchange information about problem customers and the worst offenders will be banned from stores throughout Crook, Willington and the Dales.

People buying alcohol for underage drinkers will also face a £1,000 fine

Sgt Ashton said he felt it had been a success.

He said: "We hope that the association will provide a forum for those involved to work together, not only to provide a safer working environment for traders, but also to help to reduce wider community problems such as alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.''