Lives put at risk after lifebelts thrown into water along River Wear
This follows a spate of incidents where lifebelts have been “maliciously” thrown into the water from riverbanks.
It has made some equipment unavailable to use in rescues, putting lives at risk.
Since Easter this year, Port of Sunderland Water Patrol Officers have dealt with 40 of these incidents and Sunderland's river and coastal lifebelts have been checked weekly.
A Port of Sunderland intervention led to one youth who interfered with the lifebelts being referred to the Youth Offending Service Restorative Justice Scheme. He had to complete a week of riverside litter picks for community service.
Marine Services Manager at the Port of Sunderland, Neil Mearns said: "If they are not in place, lives can easily be lost. I would urge young people and their parents or guardians to make sure this message is clearly understood so that we can see this misuse, interference and vandalism stopped. If a lifebelt has been tampered with or missing, it could cost a life.”
In April 2019, a lifebelt was used to rescue a man from the river at Panns Bank.
Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have also used them in rescues.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Head of Prevention and Education, Group Manager Ian Warne said: “By removing or damaging them you are directly placing lives at risk.
“We’d urge all parents to talk to their children about the importance of lifebelts and why it could be a life or death matter if they are not available when needed."
It can cost up to £55 to replace the missing equipment and emergency services have united in a message for everyone to leave lifebelts for life-saving, especially younger people.
Inspector Jamie Southwell, of Northumbria Police, added: “By removing, damaging or tampering with this equipment you are posing a risk to public safety.
"We would therefore ask members of the public to think about the potential consequences of this type of vandalism or misuse, and we will continue to support our partners to spread that important message."