More than 800 wheelie bins were stolen in Sunderland last year, police have revealed.
Northumbria Police is urging Wearsiders not to leave their bins out for thieves and vandals after saying more than 800 were reported stolen in Sunderland - compared to around 40 in other areas of the force.
Wheelie bins left out in the street, in particular overnight, are easy targets for thieves who often vandalise them and even set fire to them.
PC Kevin Hood, from the Sunderland Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "As a Neighbourhood Beat Manager my priority is making sure my local residents and their communities are safer and that I do all I can to tackle the issues that matter the most to them. Wheelie bin thefts unnecessarily raise the fear of crime even more so if they are vandalised or burned and left abandoned. They make the area untidy and unkempt and not only that there is the sheer inconvenience of arranging and waiting for a replacement.
"Many residents might not realise that if they haven't taken reasonable care of their wheelie bin and it is lost, stolen or even set on fire, they will have to pay for a replacement and with 800 bins stolen last year that amount soon adds up.
"Leaving it as close to collection as possible to put it out in the street and bringing the bin in at the earliest opportunity can help as can storing it behind a secure gate or attaching it to a secure post. I'd also ask people to look out for their neighbours and bring their bin in for them if they know they are out all day. It is also a good idea to mark the bin with a postcode and house number so if it does happen to get stolen and police or the council find it can be returned to the rightful owner so they haven't got to pay for a replacement."
On Monday, PC Hood will be in The Bridges Shopping Centre speaking to shoppers and offering crime prevention advice.
District Manager for Sunderland Ian Cuskin, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: "Wheelie bins are an obvious target for those looking to start fires, and they can pose a serious risk.
"These types of fire can burn rapidly and severely and can quickly spread to a property, potentially putting lives at risk. They also tie up valuable resources which could be needed elsewhere.”
Police are also working with Sunderland City Council and refuse collectors will now leave a letter straightaway if the wheelie bin falls into the refuse truck by accident - so the resident knows it hasn't been stolen.
Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Harry Trueman, who is also Chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, said: "Stolen and misplaced wheelie bins cause unnecessary inconvenience and expense which we are working with our residents and community safety partners to avoid. We cannot allow the mindless actions of a minority who continue to steal, damage and destroy them disrupt life in our communities.
"Working together we can prevent this type of anti-social behaviour, by making sure wheelie-bins aren’t left out too long in the streets giving the vandals the opportunity to steal or set them on fire.”
Anyone wanting crime prevention advice on wheelie bins, or any other matter, can visit PC Hood in The Bridges between 9am and 5.15pm on Monday.