OPPORTUNIST thieves looking for easy pickings in Hucknall during the countdown to Christmas have been warned that police are determined to stop them in their tracks.
Burglars looking to lift Christmas presents from homes and shoplifters and pilferers of purses and bags will be hoping to catch people off their guard during the gruelling Christmas shopping rush.
This is a time of year when potential victims of theft are especially vulnerable because their attention tends to be fully focused on what sort of presents to buy.
But Hucknall police commander Insp Nick Butler says: “We will do everything we can to stop anyone suffering a theft, which can be a heartbreaking experience and ruin enjoyment of the festive season.”
He points out that Operation Clathrate, named after a chemical substance, will be put into effect. This strategy means that thieves will be banned from the town centre and possibly made subject to anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).
A spate of purse thefts in Hucknall town centre around Christmas time a couple of years ago prompted police to launch a poster campaign, urging pensioners and other members of the public to ensure that they looked after their belongings.
“While such offences are not necessarily a Christmas thing, we recognise that thieves can be particularly active at such a time,” said Insp Butler.
He pointed out that the Shopwatch scheme was now well established in Hucknall. This enables a business which has been a victim of theft to give an immediate warning to neighbouring shops by means of radio messages, as well as providing direct contact with the police.
Insp Butler said crime in Hucknall had been reduced by 24% in Hucknall this year and the detection rate of 38% was the town’s highest ever.
A number of burglaries in the town had latterly caused a glitch but five suspects had been arrested this week, he added.
The drop in crime had covered shoplifting and other thefts but the police were not resting on their laurels, said Insp Butler.
Just over a year ago, police launched a hard-hitting crackdown on shoplifters threatening to undermine businesses in Hucknall. There had been a worrying 21% increase of such offences in the town during 2011.
But the initiative led to two repeat offenders being banned from entering the town centre after being caught stealing from shop shelves, and there were many other arrests.
Patrols were stepped up in the town centre and undercover operations were aimed at catching shoplifters in the act.
A new weapon unveiled at that time meant shops being given dossiers containing mugshots of convicted shoplifters so that they could recognise them if the criminals entered their premises.
Many such crimes are committed by people looking to fund drug habits. In one case that went to court, a youth stole toiletries from Hucknall’s Boots store and tried to sell them to passers-by on High Street.
Insp Butler said: “We know a lot of people are finding things difficult financially at present but that is no excuse for committing crime.”
He reminded people who bought stolen goods that they too could face prosecution.
A spokesman for retail giant Tesco said there were well aware of a particular need to look out for shoplifters at Christmas.
He added: “We employ security staff at all our superstores, including those in Hucknall and Bulwell.”
A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police warned shoppers to keep a careful check on their bags and not to carry large amounts of money.
She also advised people not to leave items they had purchased where they were visible in cars but to lock them in the boot.