A MAJOR graffiti crackdown in York - backed by the Evening Press - was today hailed by a Government supremo leading the fight against community crime.

York's new Turn In A Tagger blitz was singled out for special praise by Louise Casey, head of the Home Office anti-social behaviour unit.

She said: "The public hate graffiti. When you have a city like York, which is one of the most beautiful in the country, the last thing you want is graffiti.

"I'm really, really pleased with the campaign and the message that taggers will be caught."

As reported in the Evening Press, rewards of up to £1,000 are now available to anyone able to identify vandals behind a string of graffiti attacks in the city.

Senior police and council chiefs teamed up to launch the campaign - aimed at snaring spray-can yobs responsible for blighting York.

The initiative was flagged up as a model case study during a Home Office anti-social behaviour workshop in Sheffield, attended by hundreds of regional crime-fighters at the front line in the drive to "reclaim communities".

Ms Casey joined an army of housing officials, neighbourhood wardens and youth offending team workers to hear how City of York Council environmental services staff compiled an electronic database on prevalent "tags" - the slang name for slogans daubed on property - to help police identify the culprits.

Council figures show there were more than 500 graffiti attacks on public property in York last year.

Crimestoppers stumped up the reward money, while the Safer York Partnership invested cash from anti-social behaviour funds. Campaign posters were being circulated in schools, colleges and in prominent city centre sites displaying a rogues' gallery of "taggers".

Sergeant Richard Crinnion, of York Police, welcomed news the crackdown had been praised.

He reported a "steady" flow of information from the public since the campaign was launched last month.

But he said: "I'm surprised we did not get more instant hits because of the amount of money. We have one of the biggest pots of money - £1,000 has never been done before."

However, Sgt Crinnion said arrests were planned soon, based on calls received - and he urged anyone with information about graffiti to call police immediately.

Police estimated graffiti crime costs taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds.

The Evening Press reported last week how serial vandal Alan Crosby - alias "Soak" - faces a spell behind bars. The 19-year-old, from Trevor Grove, Acomb, admitted scrawling a trail of graffiti across the city. He was the first "tagger" to appear in court.

Updated: 10:21 Thursday, March 24, 2005