Shoppers in Norwich have been urged to make sure Christmas does not come early for thieves this year.

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November, December and January can be a be a lucrative time for crooks targeting stores packed shoppers looking for festive treats and bargains for family and friends.

Figures released by police show that between November 22 and January 4 last year there were 183 incidents of shoplifting compared to 156 in the same period in 2010 and 191 in 2009.

Additional police officers will be on patrol in the city during peak times in the run up to Christmas to target crooks as part of Operation Festive.

Launched to coincide with the switching on of the Christmas lights at City Hall and the start of late night shopping, the campaign, which will run into the New Year, will see:

• An increased visible presence of uniformed officers and PCSOs at key times in retail areas.

• Plain clothes officers working covertly with store detectives and CCTV operatives to target known offenders.

• Raising awareness about crime prevention through the media and by speaking to shoppers and offering advice.

Sergeant Keith Philpot of the Norwich East Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) said: “The run up to Christmas and New Year is one of the busiest times in the retail economy.

“We know that shop theft goes up as we get closer to Christmas - people are out to get presents they probably can’t afford and are more inclined to steal at this time of year.

“What we’ve done now for a few years now is have a Christmas campaign targeting shop theft.”

The campaign is calling on shoppers to help prevent themselves from being victims. Sgt Philpot said it was “being aware” of property, things like keeping handbags in site and wallets in front rather than rear pockets or under jackets. He also urged people buying presents and putting them in vehicles to keep them out of view.

Sgt Philpot had a stern message for those heading to Norwich intent on stealing from shops this Christmas.

He said: “If your planning to come into the city and steal - we will be looking for you.”

The campaign is also targeting thefts in clubs and bars at night.

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