A CRACKDOWN on those who slash open rubbish bags searching for personal details or goods to sell is underway.

An initiative aimed at tackling the issue has been launched after a recent increase in bag slashing across Middlesbrough.

Culprits create an environmental and health hazard as they leave rubbish strewn around rooting through bags for discarded correspondence and valuable goods.

Middlesbrough Council is warning scavengers that their activities are illegal and carry the risk of prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

Environmental Protection officers are also writing to residents and landlords in order to raise awareness of the activity. As most bag slashing in the area takes place in areas with back alleys, posters will be placed on alley gates and stickers on bins in an attempt to further enforce the warning.

Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Community Protection, said: “Rummaging through bins is not only an offence, but the results can be unsightly and hazardous as waste is pulled out from the bins and strewn over the floor.

“This causes an eyesore and attracts mice and rats to the area. It also costs the Council thousands of pounds to clean up each week.

“I would urge all law-abiding residents to do everything they can to deter the bag slashers, and alert us if they think they know who is responsible.”

To tackle the issue, residents are also advised not to put their rubbish out before 10pm on the evening prior to collection.