By Kris Jepson

Burglaries of empty properties and anti-social behaviour has sparked a joint-forces initiative to tackle the problem in Shildon, County Durham.

Now Durham Police is working alongside Durham County Council and Shildon Town Council on a project launched this month, which aims to tackle the issues affecting residents mostly in New Shildon and Byerley Road side streets.

The project will have a particular focus on protecting empty homes from being broken into and bringing them back into use.

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The Safe Durham Partnership says it is seeking funding for security measures such as door chimes, alarms and stickers to be used in empty properties, while an information event for landlords to find out more about the council's private landlord accreditation scheme will take place in June.

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: "We have been working hard to help make Shildon a better place to live and visit and communicating with landlords is an extremely important part of this as they play a vital role in strengthening communities."

The aim is to reduce these empty properties, bring them up to a standard, through partner agency working, with local councils, local people, local residents and landlords, to bring the properties into habitable standard, to get them back to reduce our demand and reduce the burglaries in the area.

Acting Sgt Matthew Plumb

Empty home owners and private landlords will be able to find out about financial assistance on offer, including a £15,000 interest free repayment loan and a £5,000 move-in grant available to new owners looking to purchase a long-term empty property to live in themselves.

One housing agent explained to ITV News Tyne Tees how landlords of empty houses are struggling to afford to pay for renovations and, as a consequence, their properties are vulnerable to being targeted by criminals.

They will break in and look for copper piping, boilers, take things from the properties and landlords do struggle to replace the items that they have stolen. They just don't have the funds or are able to borrow money on the property to be able to get the homes back up to standard.

Vikki Raitt, Housing Agent