Police and traders in King’s Lynn have joined forces to spearhead a new campaign tackling festive crime in the town centre.
December usually sees a rise in shoplifting and anti-social behaviour, but a new crackdown called Operation Wonderland is already making an impact.
Lynn Police identified its top 20 most prolific offenders and is working with more than 40 retailers to keep track of their movements in the town.
Since the start of the month, officers have arrested 10 of the top 20, with two now serving custodial sentences and the remaining eight released on bail with conditions forbidding entry to shops in the town centre or on the industrial estates.
Around £3,000 of stolen goods has also been recovered and returned to traders.
Officers have also been making home visits to discourage those with criminal records from re-offending.
Operation Wonderland is designed to make the town’s key shopping areas pleasant places to visit and will see an increased police presence.
Patrols will also be visible in other shopping areas, including the Hardwick and North Lynn industrial estates.
Sergeant Darryl Grief, who is leading the operation, said: “Lynn town centre is a very important part of policing West Norfolk.
“We are really keen on making the town centre a much better place to come to.
“Each year we see an increase in retail theft and anti-social behaviour in December and so this month the town centre is a priority and any response officers who are not attending incidents will park up and patrol the centre.”
Sgt Grief said details shared with traders had resulted in a “fantastic” flow of information back to the police, which had helped officers tackle the culprits of retail crime.
Janette Crawford, vice-chairman of King’s Lynn Business Improvement District (BID) and store manager at the town’s Wilko branch, said: “It’s a positive move for the town over the Christmas period – we are very fortunate in Lynn as the police here are always very supportive.
“We are quite a close community in the town centre and we are working together, sharing information with the police and it is having a big impact.”
Mrs Crawford said the initiative was not just about trade.
“At Christmas time we have people who come from further away, not just to shop but also to look around the town and it is important it is a safe place to visit and we don’t have anti-social behaviour in the town centre,” she added.
Police officers are also working with the Winter Night Shelter and The Purfleet Trust to help vulnerable offenders deal with issues such as addiction which often fuels criminal behaviour.