Police have issued a plea to members of the public after a historic landmark became a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
Officers say anti-social behaviour around Hylton Castle has seen youths damaging the iconic building and leaving discarded bottles of alcohol.
Now an initiative called Play your Part has been launched by police and partners,in an attempt to return the castle to the centre of community life.
Officers have carried out regular patrols in the grounds and taken action against those found to be responsible for anti-social behaviour.
Dispersal orders - preventing the youths from gathering at the site - have been used, letters have been sent to the parents and guardians of those involved and individuals have been spoken to infront of their parents and guardians.
Despite extra attention from police and the Safer Sunderland Partnership there are still isolated incidents of anti-social behaviour at the site.
And, with Heritage Lottery Funding in place to restore Hylton Castle and create a cultural heritage and education centre the local community is being asked to play its part in making the area even better.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, said: “Hylton Castle is an impressive heritage site and we need to do all we can to stop the small minority who, through their anti-social behaviour, are having a negative impact on a landmark that should be a focal point, preserved and enjoyed by the whole community.
“I have been involved in some fantastic partnership work with the council addressing some of the concerns of local people and I will ensure that tackling ASB and disorder will remain a top priority for our neighbourhood teams in the area. Residents can be assured that tough action will be taken against the few who are causing trouble and preventing the enjoyment of others.”
Acting Neighbourhood Inspector Victoria Ford-Stubbs said: "We understand that young people want somewhere to go and hang out with their friends but would urge them to go to organised events and proper venues rather than hang around the street, in parks and, in particular, Hylton Castle.
"The castle is a listed building and a great part of the area's history, unfortunately though it is being ruined by the anti-social behaviour of a minority who are damaging the building and leaving behind a trail of rubbish.
"We would ask that parents work with us in helping us crackdown on this behaviour and make sure they know where their children are when they go out and advise them not to hang around the castle.
"We're continuing to work with our community safety partners to improve the area and would ask that our local residents play their part in helping us too."
Local residents can play their part by working with community safety partners to help identify and address any problems with anti-social behaviour, and encourage others to stop causing environmental damage to the site with dog fouling and littering.
Getting young people involved is vital to the success of the community led, cultural heritage project with hundreds regularly attending Excel Youth Villages held on land neighbouring the castle grounds and local schools keen to become part of the castle’s future plans.
Chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Coun Harry Trueman added: “This is a fantastic, community led project, and we want to protect the site and those who already enjoy visiting from anything which may spoil it before work can begin.
“Working together we can reduce and hopefully prevent any remaining problems with anti-social behaviour, and increase everyone’s sense of pride in and ownership of the castle and its grounds as they return to something approaching their former glory.
“To achieve this on behalf of the people of Hylton Castle and our city, I’d ask everyone to help us look after the site and do little, individual things like making sure they pick up after their dogs and put any litter in the bins provided along the paths.”
The community led cultural heritage project which successfully attracted £2.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is boosted by £1.5m match funding from Sunderland City Council and will bring the castle and its grounds back to life.
Built over three floors, the Castle Gatehouse will accommodate classrooms, a café, exhibition and flexible community spaces for meetings and events. The community run project will also see young people appointed to sit on the board alongside adult mentors.
• Three floors inserted within the existing structure with access to the roof
• Exhibition spaces to house a broad range of events and activities
• A café
• Interpretation telling the story of the history and heritage of the castle
• Learning spaces for use by schools, colleges and universities