Residents in Sunderland and South Tyneside are being given help to keep their wheelie bins safe from the hands of thieves and vandals.
The advice forms part of the Darker Nights campaign - an annual initiative that sees community safety partners across Sunderland and South Tyneside join forces to keep communities safe during darker nights.
Once again, police are working in partnership with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and both Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council in the run up to Halloween and bonfire night.
During October and November police often see a rise in the number of wheelie bins stolen, which are often used to make illegal bonfires or just vandalised and set on fire.
Homeowners who have not taken reasonable care of their wheelie bin will have to pay for a replacement if it is lost, stolen or burned.
To help residents, police have issued some top tips to keep wheelie bins safe.
1. Do not leave the bin in the street, in particular overnight.
2. If possible store the bin at the back of the house, or at the side, behind a locked gate - although make sure it is not stored under a window where it can be used as a leverage to access upstairs.
3. If the only place to store the bin is at the front of the house use a bike lock to attach it to a secure post.
4. If you are putting the bin out for collection - try and leave it until the last minute, if it has to go out the night before try and leave it as late as possible.
5. Bring the bin in as soon as it has been emptied - if you know your neighbours are out at work all day, why not bring their bin in for them.
6. Mark you bin with your house number.
Superintendent Sarah Pitt said: "People may wonder why we are issuing crime prevention advice for wheelie bins, but unfortunately it is an issue, in particular at this time of year. We have seen bins stolen, vandalised and set on fire and in some cases we have even seen wheelie bin fires spread to sheds, garages and even houses causing considerable damage.
"Wheelie bins that have been left out in the street overnight are an easy target for thieves, they haven't even got to trespass onto someone else's property to steal - and if it is stolen if a homeowner has not taken reasonable care to secure the bin they will have to pay for a replacement, which will not only be an inconvenience but leave them out of pocket."
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “At this time of year we see an increase in opportunist fires involving wheelie bins and uncollected rubbish, which endangers property as well as the lives of local people and our firefighters.
“You can try to avoid the risks by bringing in your wheelie bin as soon as it has been emptied and ensuring waste is stored securely before being disposed of. It’s also hugely helpful to contact your local council if you notice any discarded items which could be set on fire or an illegal bonfire being built.”
Police, fire officers and council workers will continue to carry out activity over the coming weeks to remove rubbish that could be set on fire, dismantle illegal fires, tackle anti-social behaviour and offer crime prevention advice.
Regular patrols will be carried out by police who will be on patrol in their local area to speak to local residents, offer reassurance, let them know what is going on and answer the concerns they may have.