A CHRISTMAS crackdown on town centre crime led to a dramatic drop in shoplifting in South Shields last month.
Latest police figures reveal the number of thefts reported to police was 55 per cent down on the same period in 2012.
The timeframe in question includes some of South Shields town centre’s busiest days of the year as shoppers sought out last-minute gifts or looked to bag a bargain in the sales.
The crackdown, launched just ahead of the festive season as part of Northumbria Police’s Operation Soundwave, saw extra officers taking to the streets and patrolling the Metro system.
The campaign was aimed at tackling those involved in theft and burglary across the North East during the festive season.
Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside neighbourhood policing team in South Shields, said: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime. It impacts on everyone. In the last 28 days, we have seen a 55 per cent drop in the number of shoplifting offences, compared to last year.
“This is a fantastic success and shows partnership working at its best.
“As well as having highly visible patrols out in the town centre, we also worked very closely with the town hall camera operators.
“Shop staff and managers also played their part in helping us keep criminals at bay.”
As well as preventing shoplifting, police were quickly on the trail of those who tried to flee the town centre with their ill-gotten gains.
Last month, we told how thief Neal Preston was arrested just 20 minutes after leaving the Debenhams store in Waterloo Square, South Shields, after stealing £1,000 worth of designer perfumes.
He was spotted by closed-circuit TV camera operators, and they alerted police to his whereabouts.
Preston, 36, of Laygate, South Shields, had sentencing deferred for six months by South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court to allow him to progress with an outstanding community order and drug rehabilitation requirement.
Insp Sutton added: “The Christmas period may be over, but we are determined to build on the success of this recent operation and will continue to work with shop-owners and staff to help them protect their goods from thieves.”
Police are encouraging shop staff and shoppers who spot anyone acting suspiciously in stores to contact police or raise their concerns with a member of staff. Call 101 ext 69191 to alert police.