UNDERAGE drinkers in Darlington are at risk of exploitation, police have warned.

Adults have been infiltrating groups of teenagers congregating in the town’s Green Park, according to Sergeant Mike Sammut of Darlington Police.

He said older men had been buying alcohol for teens and showing up at the popular park in cars, intent on joining the underage gatherings.

Claiming young people are putting themselves at risk by mixing with adults intent on joining the underage gatherings, he said: “Young people drinking in the park is nothing unusual but adults joining them is something different.

“My concern now is that alcohol is being consumed by teenagers who put themselves at risk of exploitation from those who may take advantage of them.

“We have received reports of adults purchasing alcohol for young people and older males turning up in vehicles where young people are gathered.

“This adds a very serious dimension to the issue but it’s our intention to be proactive and deal with these concerns head on.”

He urged young people to take responsibility for their actions and added: “I would appeal to parents who may not necessarily consider their son or daughter to be vulnerable to ask themselves if they know where their child is going and who they are mixing with.

“It’s important young people are given the freedom to socialise and express themselves but with this freedom comes responsibility and awareness of the risks involved.”

Anyone with information about this issue can contact Cockerton Neighbourhood Police Team on non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.