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Police steal a march on festive crime; 80 PEOPLE ALREADY NABBED IN EARLY CITY CENTRE SHOPLIFTING CRACKDOWN.

Byline: ADAM JUPP

A BLITZ on festive thieves is already netting results - eight weeks before Christmas.

Police launched an operation codenamed Cracker in a bid curb the annual rise in shop thefts in the run-up to the Yuletide And officers have already arrested more than 80 people the first fortnight of action, which targets crooks operating in Newcastle.

Neighbourhood Sgt Darren Graham said: "We want to youngsters and parents about the consequences of stealing so they don't gain a criminal record which could ultimately affect their future.

"It could be down to pressure or because they don't think it's a serious crime, stealing of any kind is taken very seriously and we're working hard to make sure they aware of the consequences they know that it's just worth it."

Every year police in the see a huge rise in the number offences in the run-up to Christmas and, on the back of a summer operation aimed at combating credit crunch crime, the decision taken to launch Cracker as early as October 5. Since the start of the campaign, officers have stopped and spoken to 250 people, including known shoplifting offenders, to warn them about the ongoing blitz. And 82 people have been arrested for stealing from stores.

The city is being flooded both uniform and undercover officers, supported by extra security guards and store detectives employed by major retailers.

CCTV cameras are being monitored to target known thieves and ensure they stopped and spoken to and necessary action taken, while retailers are also using Shopwatch scheme, which gives them instant access to police and each other, to raise alarm if anything suspicious seen.

The team is focusing attention on teenagers during half-term week, many of whom are often first-time offenders acting under peer pressure because they don't think it's serious crime.

Around a quarter of shoplifting offences are carried out by juveniles, and this often rises during school holidays. stall will be present at Eldon Square this week to educate them about the consequences stealing, which includes being arrested and spending time in cell.

The stall will have giveaways from companies such as Boots and Newcastle United, to officers engage with youngsters and explain that stealing a serious offence.

Sgt Graham added: "Newcastle is one of the safest cities in the country for people enjoy but there's always minority who spoil it for others, and these are who we are "We've flooded the city and it's transport links extra officers, both uniformed and undercover, and are working closely with city centre retailers and using CCTV resources to ensure known thieves are targeted and moved on.

"Anyone who is caught shoplifting is arrested and with appropriately, which include bail conditions not enter the city centre.

"The simple message is we are watching thieves will continue stopping people we see suspicious activity are making arrests were appropriate.

"Hopefully having so many officers out in force means will also impact on purse and thefts of wallets handbags as we're targeting thieves .

"There's no place for thieves in Newcastle city centre we're doing all we can to ensure it remains a safe place for to come to shop and enjoy themselves."

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BUSY STREETS: Christmas shoppers in Newcastle city centre
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 29, 2009
Words:537
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