A SENIOR councillor has told police and council chiefs: “We need protection” after a spate of high profile thefts and robberies.

Councillor Heather Scott, the leader of the Conservatives on Darlington Council, said the town’s residents were “extremely concerned” about public safety.

Cllr Scott cited a recent armed raid on a post office in Blackwell as cause for concern, while travelling criminals have also targeted free standing cash machines in the Cockerton and Neasham Road areas of the town.

Speaking at a meeting of the council, Cllr Scott said: “It has been agreed that the police can have a 7.9 per cent precept increase and we need to put pressure on them to get the message out there that Darlington is not an easy target.

“People are coming into Darlington to carry out various different incidents who are from out of town. Why are they coming here? Do they think Darlington is an easy touch? We must do something to get the message out there that we will not tolerate this.

“We need action and we need protection.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said: “Crime doesn’t respect local government boundaries. Our criminals travel outside of the area too to commit crimes elsewhere.

“They just go wherever they think they are going to get away with it. We have got one of the highest performing police forces in the country and should be proud of that and should remind our citizens of that.

“There has a spate of very high level attacks particularly on shops and ATM machines, which I am confident the police will clear up.

“People in the borough do need and deserve reassurance, whatever form that takes, and we will look at it.”

Recently a survey of residents spending priorities in the town saw community safety come out top. The council now intends to allocate a one-off £500,000 over the course of its medium term financial plan towards community safety measures.

A report before councillors said: “Previous rounds of spending reductions in the council and its partners in the police have impacted on the co-ordination and leadership of work to keep Darlington a safe place.

“In line with national trends anti-social behaviour has increased and there are risks this may impact on public perceptions of safety.”

Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, said: “I can understand the concern and alarm that these recent incidents have caused but I can assure Councillor Scott and the people of Darlington that their police service is responding robustly and pro-actively.

“It is vital at such times that we continue to work together in order to ensure the maximum co-operation between the police and the public.”