DRINKERS in pubs and clubs across east Durham are being targeted in a campaign to prevent violent and drunken behaviour.

Almost 350 pubs, clubs and bars in the district are taking part in the scheme, launched earlier this week.

More than 60,000 beer mats and posters carry messages urging people to behave, and warning them of the consequences if they break the law.

Sergeant Tim Robson, substance misuse officer for Durham Constabulary's north area command, said: "We know from experience that a large proportion of violent acts are fuelled by alcohol.

"While the early signs suggest the more flexible licensing hours introduced last month have not led to any noticeable increase in trouble, we are now right in the middle of the festive period.

"This is often a time when drink-related problems can turn violent, so we hope this initiative will make people stop and think."

Street wardens and police community support officers have been distributing the publicity material to all licensed premises in the district, which has been paid for by the Easington Community Safety Partnership.

As well as the campaign in the pubs, about 10,000 cards carrying similar messages are being distributed through doctors' surgeries, libraries, leisure centres and other community venues. The cards contain telephone numbers for specialist helplines and advice agencies.

Geoff Lodge, senior community safety officer for Easington, said: "We wish to see a decline in violence connected with alcohol and a reduction in the number of injuries, often severe, which occur as a result."