A North East council has won an award for a pioneering project aimed at tackling the growing problem of arson attacks by young people in an historic village.
South Tyneside Council saw off competition from around six other councils to scoop the Community Involvement award in a national competition organised by local authority trade publication Local Government Chronicle for its Bored in Boldon project.
The award comes as fire service reports reveal the number of arson attacks on grassland and wheelie bins have plummeted in Boldon, one of the oldest villages in the North East, since the project was launched just over a year ago.
The council supported Bored in Boldon after the area was identified by the fire service as having the highest rate of anti-social behaviour fires in Tyne and Wear.
"It became clear," said Cllr Tracey Dixon, lead member for area management community safety, "that the fires were being started by young people living in this neighbourhood and, if the problem were to be resolved, the cause must be addressed, not just the symptoms."
The council joined forces with youth organisation South Tyneside Positive Activities and Targeted Youth Support Group and consulted almost 80 young people who identified boredom and alcohol as the main causes of fire setting in the area.
With support from ward councillors, the police, fire service, residents and businesses, the project launched a number of initiatives, such as litter clean ups and fund raising bag packs at local supermarkets, aimed at involving young people in community activities and encouraging them to respect their neighbourhood.
Now, Northumbria Police figures show that since the start of the project, crime has reduced by 14 per cent, criminal damage by 15 per cent and youth related antisocial behaviour by 60 per cent.
In addition, a number of young people have now become volunteers on the Bored in Boldon committee and 12 have achieved Level 1 on their Open College Network Introduction to Youth Work course.
"The change in those that have been involved in the project has been considerable," said Steve Southern of the South Tyneside Positive Activities and Targeted Youth Support Group.
"Before, they felt they had nowhere to go and weren't welcome anywhere - they also lacked role models who could help them keep away from trouble. Now, their self- esteem and confidence have improved, they are starting to take trouble over their appearance and, most importantly, they see themselves as part of their community, not as unwelcome outsiders."
Fire Authority member Cllr Joanne Bell said: "I am absolutely delighted that the Bored in Boldon project has won the Local Government Chronicle award. This partnership working with South Tyneside Council has proved successful at tackling the issues surrounding anti-social behaviour in South Tyneside in a pro-active and interesting way."