TWO nights of police activity in a town plagued by alcohol-fuelled youth disorder have been hailed a success.

Operation Staysafe was launched in response to escalating anti-social behaviour in Sedgefield, where large groups of young people from across the county have started congregating on Friday and Saturday nights.

Last month, a 13-year-old girl was arrested after being found in a possession of a knife. She was among a crowd of 150 youths who were sent home by police for fear they would intimidate residents. And last week, a police officer was bitten and another suffered a shoulder injury when they were attacked while trying to help a drunk girl. This resulted in four arrests.

Operation Staysafe involves officers patrolling hotspot areas, where youths congregate, often to drink alcohol.

Young people found to be behaving antisocially or drinking alcohol are being spoken to by officers, breathalysed and either escorted home or taken to a place of safety. They are also being provided with help and intervention, if necessary.

On Friday, officers were joined by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and Keith Scott from Durham County Council.

Eight young people aged between 15 and 16 were found to be drinking alcohol. This was confiscated and they were taken to a safe space – seven were collected by their parents, and one was taken home to Thornley by police.

Community Protection Warnings (CPWs) were also issued to parents who had bought alcohol for their children.

On Saturday, there were no issues regarding antisocial behaviour and the number of youths congregating in the village had dropped significantly.

Inspector Sarah Honeyman, from Sedgefield Neighbourhood Police Team, said: “We have never sought to stop young people having fun but in recent weeks too many have been under the influence of alcohol.

“The harm caused by the consumption of alcohol is widespread with antisocial behaviour, criminal damage and public order offences but more importantly the effects on young people’s health and safety – they are leaving themselves vulnerable to being victims of offences.

“I was pleased that all parents called in over the weekend to collect their youngsters who were under the influence of alcohol and/or in possession of alcohol were supportive of police action.”

She added: “I hope that the message is being received loud and clear that we will not tolerate large groups of youths descending on Sedgefield on a weekend with alcohol and intent on causing antisocial behaviour.

“This weekend we spoke to many local youths who were well behaved and generally polite. We will be continuing with this operation in the coming weeks.”

PCSO Lisa Hall said: “During Friday evening, many visiting youths approached officers to ask why they were being breathalysed and questioned as to their movements.

“While there was no significant resistance, it sincerely curtailed their intended activities. Word circulated quickly - by the evening’s end youths were opening their coats and bags as we approached in anticipation of being searched.”

Seven youths who were involved in a public order incident in the town on Friday, May 4 have since been issued with CPWs. This includes the condition not to enter Sedgefield on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 5.30pm and midnight, and not to cause offence to anyone in public within County Durham and Darlington.