Swindon Police have begun a high-visibility campaign targeting criminals who blight the festive season.
Operation Dasher is in force across the town centre and out of town shopping locations, and is being undertaken by Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
The busy Christmas period sees increased footfall and with it the risk of crime and anti-social behaviour goes up.
Operation Dasher has been put in place to combat this and to offer reassurance to the public and business community across Swindon.Sgt Richard Fay said: “We have teamed up with our key partners to ensure that neither local businesses or the public are affected by criminals or anti-social behaviour at this time of year.
“We want people who are going about their business in Swindon to feel safe and are hopeful that this approach will achieve this.
"We will also be supporting retail and transport staff in engaging with the public around the ongoing Covid-19 guidance and rules on face coverings."
The police are supported by inSwindon Bid’s Street Team, Swindon Borough Council CCTV operators, Pubwatch and store security staff.
Officers will meet with partners daily to share intelligence and any other relevant information which will be disseminated to local businesses and shops.
Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “Christmas is a really special time of year and we want our town centre to continue to be an attractive and welcoming place where everyone feels safe.
“Working in partnership with the police means that we can tackle any anti-social behaviour together, more effectively, while our CCTV team can help support the police with any criminal investigations.
“Operation Dasher is a perfect example of how, as partners, we can come together to clamp down on anti-social behaviour in a co-ordinated way. We want everyone to be able to enjoy Christmas.’’
PC Paul Bezzant said: “The busy Christmas period can provide an increased opportunity for criminals or for anti-social behaviour to have a greater impact on the community.
“This Operation is about combating these risks, making sure our communities feel safe to shop, visit and work in the areas.
“Swindon police have a wealth of committed community partners to call on to help keep the town safe.
“These have become the eyes and ears of the community and allow us to effectively share information and intelligence in real time to jointly keep the public the safe.
“We will continue to work hard with them to ensure everyone can enjoy a peaceful festive period.
“If you have any concerns, please come and speak to one of our officers, or come and visit us out our Community Policing Shop on Canal Walk.”
inSwindon Director Anita Bellinger said: “Christmas is a really important time for Swindon town centre businesses and visitors, so we fully support Operation Dasher.
"We want all visitors to the town centre to have a great experience and feel safe all year round, and especially at Christmas. By having an enhanced police presence and increased intelligence sharing, we can offer greater reassurance and a safer experience for visitors and businesses.
"Our Street Ambassadors are out working with businesses and the community in the town centre 364 days of the year. They run our DaySafe radio network, alongside secure intelligence sharing with retailers. So they will be able to share that knowledge during daily meetings and work with Operation Dasher partners.
"By working in partnership, we can collectively achieve more than we could individually. And inSwindon's role representing town centre businesses means we're able to coordinate a service that the businesses wouldn't have capacity for individually. It’s a great example of partnership power.
"It also provides additional on the ground support for businesses, so they can enjoy the festive season and concentrate on what they do best - creating fantastic goods and services for our community.”
The team has issued tips to help people avoid becoming victims of crime over the festive period:
- When out shopping, keep your purse and handbag with you - don’t leave it in your trolley or unattended
- Keep any cash you may have on you to a minimum
- Mobile phones and wallets in back pockets are a target - keep them secure and out of sight
- Be careful at cash machines and when paying by card - shield your PIN at all times.
- Don’t leave Christmas presents or valuables such as laptops, mobile phones, handbags, credit cards or cheque books in your car. If this is unavoidable, put them in the boot and ensure equipment is completely switched off
- Remove Satnavs, clean away suction marks on windows and make sure car doors, windows and sun roofs are all properly closed and locked
- Leave absolutely nothing on show - you may know that there is no wallet in your jacket, but a thief will break a window just to check.
- If you own a van, remove tools overnight and display an appropriate sign in the rear window making this clear.
Anybody who is a victim of crime or wishes to report suspicious behaviour is asked to call 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively, if they wish to remain anonymous, they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.