Police will be patrolling Swindon’s town centre and other shopping areas in a bid to ensure customers and staff have a safe Christmas.

This year’s Operation Dasher initiative to target crime and antisocial behaviour over the festive season has begun.

Over the next three weeks, neighbourhood policing teams will be proactively conducting patrols and operations in hotspot areas, working with Swindon Borough Council CCTV operators and street wardens, Pubwatch, and store security staff.

The initiative was introduced more than a decade ago due to the increased footfall in the town and the accompanying rise in crime and anti-social behaviour each December.

Swindon neighbourhood officer PC Paul Bezzant said: “We run Op Dasher over the Christmas period annually as part of our ongoing efforts to tackle acquisitive crime and anti-social behaviour in Swindon town centre.

“We know there is an increase in crime over this busy period and in the lead up to Christmas, so you’re likely to see more officers out and about to combat this and to offer reassurance to the public and business community across Swindon.

“Officers will also meet with partners regularly to share intelligence and any other relevant information which will then be passed on to local businesses and shops.

“We want people who are going about their business in Swindon to feel safe and are hopeful that this approach will achieve this.”

Officers offered advice to help shoppers fall victim to criminals while out and about, and keep their vehicles secure.

- 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, so 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 like laptops, mobile phones, handbags, credit cards or cheque books in your car. If 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 sunroofs 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.

Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson said: “We know that this time of year is potentially lucrative for organised crime groups as they target businesses at the busiest period for retailers.

“I’ve challenged Wiltshire Police to do better, to be more robust and to take action when it’s needed in terms of business crime.

“It's crucial they use a more strategic, and embedded, approach, as part of their overall policing response.

“Operation Dasher is the right opportunity to set the standards of the type of service businesses should expect and as ever, I will continue to scrutinise the police response on their behalf, alongside encouraging other partners, such as local authorities, to look more closely at how we can all work together more effectively to tackle this growing problem.”

Anyone who is a victim of crime or wants to report suspicious behaviour to the police should call 101 or, if it’s an emergency, 999.

Alternatively, if victims or witnesses wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Information can also be submitted online through the police’s website www.wiltshire.police.uk