EXTRA police will be on patrol at Lakeside shopping centre as part of a major operation aimed at reducing Christmas crime.
Operation Christmas Presence will be launched on Tuesday November 18 and will run through to January 3.
Around 2.5million shoppers are expected to descend on Lakeside over Christmas and New Year and the police operation will be focused on maintaining public order and curbing crimes such as shoplifting, pickpocketing and thefts from parked cars.
Extra officers, PCSOs and Special Constables will be on patrol in the shopping mall and car parks and covert and marked police cars will be carrying out patrols and stop checks on vehicles arriving at or leaving the site.
Officers will be working closely with Lakeside’s own security staff, CCTV operators who monitor the malls and car parks and also officers from British Transport Police who will be monitoring shoppers arriving by train.
In previous years Operation Christmas Presence has reduced crime figures and increased detection rates.
A total of 113 crimes were reported during the Christmas season in 2012 and 38 per cent were detected. In 2013, 100 crimes were reported and 41 per cent were detected.
Inspector Lee Argent, who is leading the operation, said: "Up to 150,000 people a day visit Lakeside over Christmas and New Year and 70,000 vehicles a day use the car parks.
"There is a massive influx of visitors but among them are criminals intent on stealing from stores, from shoppers and from parked cars.
"By pooling resources we have been able to work extremely successfully with Lakeside shop and security staff to deal quickly with those intent on committing crime.
"All the major shops are part of our linked radio scheme and we can quickly receive and exchange information about known thieves operating in the area. We also work closely with CCTV operators who can spot and track offenders.
"On roads around Lakeside we will be holding regular stop checks using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify any vehicles known to be used in crime or drivers who may be committing motoring offences.
"We will also be using covert and marked cars to patrol the car parks. They will be watching out for thieves who wait for people to leave their shopping bags in their cars then break in to the vehicles to steal them.
"We would strongly advise people to avoid leaving bags in their cars but if they have no option they should make sure they are out of sight or locked in the boot.
Christmas is a time for peace and goodwill but not among thieves. Take a few simple security precautions and keep them at bay.
"If you see a crime in progress at Lakeside or notice suspicious activity let us know immediately so we can give them a taste of Christmas in custody.”