PEOPLE in York have been helping the city's police to start setting the trap for the "rats" who plague our communities with crime.

Operation Ratcatcher, the Evening Press-backed autumn/winter crime crackdown, has made a "very encouraging" start with a number of tip-offs already being relayed to the police via Crimestoppers.

In the nine days since the campaign was launched last week, Crimestoppers has received 13 calls from people in York giving information on local criminals.

All the callers were prompted by the high-profile coverage the Evening Press has carried.

Detective Sergeant Ian Froggett, of Crimestoppers, said: "It has been a very encouraging start. The number of calls we have had has been a lot more than we would normally get from people in York in a month. We are delighted with the uptake so far, but we know there is a lot more information out there still to come in from people.

"Some of the information has been very good. Looking at the content of the reports, there is no doubt that callers want rid of drug dealers and burglars."

He said Operation Ratcatcher - a joint initiative between the Evening Press, North Yorkshire Police, Safer York Partnership and Crimestoppers - gave people in York an ideal opportunity to do something about criminals in their areas without having to confront them face to face.

"All too often, people will bite their tongue and conclude that the police will probably know what criminals are up to, so do nothing," he said.

"The police need people to make that call and maybe give them that piece of information that completes the jigsaw to arrest an offender and put them before the court."

A similar initiative aimed at drug dealers, dubbed Crackdown, which began in Bradford in July, has so far yielded 250 calls to its Dob In A Dealer hotline and resulted in 100 arrests - 30 of those as a direct result of information supplied to Crimestoppers.

The information supplied to police so far under Operation Ratcatcher will be used to target criminals in forthcoming operations. With the dark nights now here, Ratcatcher is designed to transfer the fear of crime within communities into the fear of being caught among criminals.

The campaign uses the dedicated Crimestoppers number - 0800 555 111 - as a one-stop information hotline, where people can anonymously tip-off their local police about any criminals in their area. Calls cannot be traced and rewards are available.

Det Sgt Froggett added: "Help the police in York to catch the 'rats'. Make that call."

Updated: 16:15 Thursday, October 31, 2002