About 100 police officers and 50 vehicles were deployed in a major operation to stop burglars “stealing Christmas”.
Unprecedented resources were used in the first of four days of Operation Venom yesterday as West Yorkshire Police took action to stop the expected January spike in thefts.
A fleet of marked police cars left the base at Carr Gate in Wakefield in a bid to target criminals before they could offend.
Speaking to assembled officers at a briefing, Superintendent Pat Casserley said: “The rich-pickings for criminals this month are Christmas presents. We’re going to stop people having their Christmases stolen.”
He added: “In effect I want you to be out on the streets to be lawfully merciless.”
Mr Casserley told the Yorkshire Evening Post that the month of January traditionally sees burglary levels rise about 20 per cent.
Leeds has historically had among the worst rates in the country, partly because of its dense concentration of housing and its large student population, who are seen as soft targets.
Burglary rates across the county have fallen by more than 20 per cent year on year.
But Venom – part of a wider crime crackdown called Operation Viper – is designed to use intelligence to stop burglars in potential hotspots.
Officers were told to target suspicious-looking cars and lock up as many would-be criminals as possible.
Mr Casserley said: “It is unprecedented for us to deploy in such numbers and in such a co-ordinated way in partnership with each other.
“It’s highly visible and highly active. It’s officers going out actively to hound down criminals. We’ve got targeted patrols putting officers in the right place who are very hungry to fill the cells.”
He added: “Burglary is one of our priorities and irrespective of the financial pressures we face it is near the top of the list and we need to keep the pressure on.”