Police officers in Stevenage were patrolling the town yesterday in a bid to warn shoppers about Christmas crime.

Officers from the Stevenage Safer Neighbourhood Teams have been encouraging residents to sign up for Neighbourhood Watch, as well as speaking to shoppers about crime prevention and the rise in crime in the run up to Christmas.

Neighbourhood Sergeant Nic Achilleos said: “At this time of year we tend to see a rise in crimes such as shoplifting, purse dipping and vehicle crime, as more people are out and about in the run up to Christmas.

“Yesterday we were patrolling our shopping areas chatting to local residents, handing out crime prevention information and encouraging sign up to Neighbourhood Watch.

“We are keen to get as many people as possible signed up as it is a great way to stay in touch with our communities and a very effective form of two-way communication between local officers and their communities.”

Currently, more than 22 per cent of households in Stevenage are already directly receiving emails about crimes, suspicious activity and police events.

The emails are sent by the Safer Neighbourhood Teams to everyone who has signed-up via the Online Watch Link.

To sign up to Neighbourhood Watch via OWL, go to www.owl.co.uk, or contact watch liaison officer Verity Soued on 101 or email verity.soued@herts.pnn.police.uk.

Police have also released the following advice on crime prevention while out and about during the festive period:

• Keep handbags securely closed and tucked under your arms if possible

• Keep wallets in a front pocket rather than a back one

• Be aware of who is around you, especially when using a cash point. Always keep your pin number hidden

• Don’t leave valuables or shopping on display in your vehicle and try to avoid returning to your car to leave your purchases while you continue shopping.