SWINDON town centre is the focus of a new police operation to crackdown on the opportunities for criminals that Christmas shopping brings.

Swindon Police Community Policing Teams have launched Operation Dasher.

The initiative will see an increase in police officers in the town centre, as well as in the various out of town retail parks, during the day and in the evening in the run-up to Christmas.

During this time, the CPTs will increase their visibility and conduct covert patrols.

The operation will be run in partnership with inSwindon and the town’s retailers.

Swindon South Community Policing Team’s Sgt David Tippetts said: “While crime and anti-social behaviour during the day time economy remain relatively low, the increase in visitors during the build-up to Christmas can present a number of new opportunities for criminals.

“We will not be complacent and are committed to continually combating these issues.

“Our partners: The retailers, store security staff, inSwindon and centre management firms have a shared commitment and responsibility to jointly tackle these issues during the busy festive period.

“Particularly as this is a period where an increase in opportunistic crime can occur.”

The aim, police say, is it ensure Swindon’s retail areas are safe and pleasant places to visit.

To stay one step ahead of the criminals, shoppers have been advised to carry only a small amount of cash, not to leave their purses or handbags unattended and to shield their PIN number from other people at all times.

Tips to ensure your vehicle is not targeted by thieves when parked, include leaving the glove box open to show there is nothing in it, removing sat navs and ensuring valuables are not left on display.

PC Paul Bezzant, the community co-ordinator for Swindon South, said: “The increased footfall across the town can see a rise in opportunistic crime.

“In conjunction with our partners, under Operation Dasher we will robustly deal with those insistent on committing crime and anti-social behaviour in the town.

“Christmas is a time to relax and have fun but it can also be busy and stressful.

“We understand that people can get caught up in the festivities.

“But we would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to consider their own personal safety and that of their loved ones while out and about.”

If you are a victim of crime or want to report suspicious behaviour to police call 999 or the non-emergency number on 101.

Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.