Partners have reunited in an annual campaign to combat crime and disorder in South Tyneside in the run up to Bonfire Night and beyond.
South Tyneside Council is working alongside South Tyneside Homes, Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service as part of the Darker Nights campaign, which is running from 20 October to 5 November.
The campaign, now in its eleventh year, aims to tackle problems that tend to peak around this time of year such as unauthorised bonfires, underage firework sales and criminal damage.
Councillor Moira Smith, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, said: "The approach to Halloween and Bonfire Night is a time of fun and excitement. But it is also an extremely hazardous period and what is fun for some, can cause misery for others.
"Once again we will be working with our partners to take a proactive approach to tackling problems. This way we can deal with them early or even prevent them from happening in the first place.
"We want all our residents to have an enjoyable Bonfire Night and stay safe but we would encourage them to think of others and behave responsibly. We would also ask local people to help us on this by reporting any problems they come across."
As part of the campaign, the Council's Trading Standards team will be out talking to local retailers about their responsibilities in the sale and safe storage of fireworks. Police and fire officers will be carrying out joint patrols throughout the area and neighbourhood officers from South Tyneside Homes will be going on a number of walkabouts talking to residents about fly-tipping, littering and graffiti concerns.
South Tyneside Chief Inspector Lisa Hogan said: "We're pleased to once again be working with South Tyneside Council and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for the darker nights campaign, which in previous years has proved hugely successful in helping everyone enjoy the Halloween and Bonfire period.
"Officers from our neighbourhood teams have already started going into schools to speak to pupils in South Tyneside about how they can stay safe and just remind them what might seem like harmless fun to them could be intimidating to some people.
"We'll be carrying out regular patrols in the areas where young people tend to gather and while they will intervene if anti-social behaviour gets out of hand they are primarily there as reassurance to our local communities and address any concerns they may have."
Historically, the number of wheelie bins stolen during the Halloween and Bonfire Night period has increased and once again, police will be delivering leaflets to local residents reminding them not to leave their bin out in the street.
Residents are asked to ensure their wheelie bins are out only on collection day and brought in as soon as possible after they have been emptied.
Ch Insp Hogan added: "Unfortunately in the run up to Bonfire Night we do see a rise in the number of wheelie bins that get stolen. These are then often set on fire and obviously this has the potential for serious consequences. Our advice to people is simply don't leave wheelie bins out in the street, particularly overnight. Try and take it in as soon after it has been emptied and make sure it is stored somewhere secure."
Crime prevention forms a huge part of the campaign and over the coming weeks police will be reminding residents of the simple steps they can take to help prevent them from being a victim of crime.
As Bonfire Night draws closer, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service will be talking to schoolchildren about the dangers of bonfires and the misuse of fireworks.
Ian Cuskin, Station Manager at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, commented: "Bonfire Night is rightly a time to celebrate our heritage and is a great time for families. But it's essential that we all work together to make it a safe one for everyone involved - and that includes firefighters.
"There are some great organised displays in South Tyneside and we would encourage families to visit one, rather than try and host their own. We have lots of information on our website - twfire.gov.uk - on candle and firework safety, on displays in the area and the dangers of firework misuse. I'd urge everyone to take a look."
As with previous campaigns, there will be a series of free, diversionary activities taking place to keep young people entertained over the period.
These include a free climbing session and barbecue at Simonside Climbing Wall on Thursday 26 October, from 5.30pm to 9.30pm. Call Martin Simpson on(0191) 424 0118for further details. Two five-a-side football tournaments are also taking place on Friday 27 October, 6pm to 9pm, at Clegwell Community Association and on Friday 3 November, 6pm to 9pm, at Temple Park Centre. Call Chris Thompson on 424 7845 for more information.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: "These activities aims to provide young people with things to do and places to go to help divert them away from the risk of becoming involved in disorder. It also encourages them to have fun with friends while channelling their energy into something constructive.
"The Darker Nights campaign provides us with an ideal opportunity to educate young people about the negative impact of anti-social behaviour on the whole community, not just during the darker nights, but all year round."
A special rate is being offered to residents for the removal of bulky waste. Bulky waste collections of up to eight items will be available for £19 (£5 saving), between Friday 27 October to Sunday 5 November. Collection slots are extremely limited and are available on a strict first come first served basis. Booking is essential on (0191)427 7000.
Residents who see incidents of abandoned waste, anti-social behaviour and illegal bonfires are also encouraged to Report It! it on 427 7000.
Incidents of illegal or underage sales of fireworks or alcohol can be reported by calling the Freephone hotline 0800 935 878 or text UNDERAGEfollowed by the details to 07786 200 802.