Police in Moray will today launch a crackdown on vandals after a series of wrecking sprees across the region.
Operation Regard is aimed at protecting residents in “hotspots” who have been suffered thousands of pounds of damage in recent months.
The new drive to catch the culprits will start in Forres before being rolled out across the area.
There has been a 23% increase in vandalism so far in 2015, with 90 more incidents reported than at this time last year.
Some of the most serious have been in and around Keith, Cullen, Elgin and Portgordon.
Last night, community leaders welcomed the police’s commitment to stamping out vandalism.
The mew crackdown will feature an increased number of highly visible police patrols in problem areas.
And parents are also being asked to play their part by making sure they know where their children are and what they are up to.
Forres-based Inspector Paul McCruden gave a “commitment” that each individual case would be thoroughly investigated.
He said he hoped the joint initiative with Moray Council’s antisocial behaviour team would mean most situations being resolved in the first instance.
He said: “When you realise there is a rise in the reporting of vandalism, it is important for us to take action to address that.
“We know vandalism affects the quality of life for those who stay in our communities.
“It is not just that annoying aspect of having property vandalised, it is the financial aspect as well.”
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross said: “Any efforts we can make in partnership have to be a good thing as we try to tackle vandalism and nip it in the bud to ensure there remains a very positive image in our communities around Moray.”
Keith and Cullen councillor Ron Shepherd added: “This is desperately needed across Moray.
“I would urge residents to remain vigilant to safeguard our towns, report any incidents they may discover and help those involved in Operation Regard to stamp out this business once and for all.”
In the past few days decorative hanging baskets were torn from their mountings in Keith town centre and their contents strewn across the ground, causing roughly £400 of damage.
The baskets were put in place to help improve the town’s appearance, and had only recently been planted with winter flowers.
Last night, the chairman of the Keith in Flower group, Dave Carson, said an unruly element in the town had grown “out of control”.
And he said that police would attend Monday’s meeting of the town’s community council for talks on how to address the issue.
Mr Carson added: “I hope police efforts step up because for so long there seems to have just been no action on vandalism cases.
“It’s a shame it takes incidents like this to get them going, as this seems to be plaguing us now.
“For a while in Keith we have seen an element that is just out of control.”
Earlier this year Cullen residents were left shocked after vandals set fire to large areas of woodland on the Seafield Estate.
And retired policeman Donald Morrison said he was considering moving from his home in Portknockie as the Haig Street area was persistently targeted for acts of wanton destruction.
Mr Morrison was left distraught after his garden fittings were wrecked and his neighbour’s gnomes and outdoor furniture smashed.
Portknockie Community Council was quick to condemn the acts and the group’s chairman, Fraser Weir, welcomed moves to tackle the problem.
He said: “The difficulty is catching these vandals in the act, and only more bodies on the street can achieve that.”
Insp McCruden added: “We know the areas, days of the week and the general times these incidents are occurring.
“We will hopefully prevent the acts of vandalism occurring and track and the detain the offenders.”