‘Operation Shepherd’: Merseyside Police launch festive initiative

Merseyside Police has launched a force-wide operation to tackle crime during the festive season. ‘Operation Shepherd’ is a comprehensive campaign involving numerous teams to tackle crime across Merseyside during November and December.

During the operation, Merseyside Police will use covert tactics and high visibility policing, and the public can expect to see more officers on the street as we work to keep businesses and residents safe.

Patrols will be stepped up across Merseyside in an effort to prevent serious and organised crime as well as offences such as burglary, robbery, sexual assault, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, drink or drug driving and flouting of Covid regulations.

birkenhead.news spoke to Superintendent Steve Brizell, who is leading the operation:

birkenhead.news (BN): Assuming that non-essential shops will be open for us to do our Christmas shopping, is there any special seasonal advice to shoppers in the run-up to the festive season?”

Superintendent Steve Brizell (SB): “When you’re out shopping it is easy to get distracted, especially when you have lots of bags or children with you. “

Pickpockets will look to take advantage of situations where they can spot vulnerabilities so make sure you use your common sense. Keep handbags and bags closed, don’t leave mobiles, wallets, or purses in your back pocket where they can be easily snatched, and keep your purse closed.

“Make sure you remain aware of your surroundings in busy shops and shopping centres because they’re ideal places for pickpockets as it’s easier for them to brush past people, take items and blend into the crowd.

“Pickpockets can sometimes work in teams and are skilled at creating distractions. This could be anything from a game to a loud shout to avert your attention while an unseen accomplice steals your valuables, so try not to be easily distracted.”, he replied.

BN: “If non-essential shops remain closed after December 2nd and we all have to do our shopping online this year, are there any particular scams related to seasonal shopping to watch out for?”

SB: “This year, we anticipate more people will be doing their Christmas shopping online. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner there are some very attractive deals available. However, people need to remember that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

“You might receive a text or email with details of an amazing offer that contains a link to a website. Some links will however take you to fake websites designed to steal your money and personal details. While not all links are untrustworthy, if you are in any doubt don’t use it and go to the website directly.”

BN: “What advice do you have for households who may have lots of presents stored in the house when they leave the house unattended?”

SB: “Many burglars are opportunist and will look through windows to check for valuables. Make sure you don’t leave anything on show that would entice a thief.

“If you’re going out and will be returning after dark use timers on your lights or smart bulbs to make it look like someone is home, keep windows and doors locked at all times and don’t leave keys near doors where hooks and canes can be used to fish them out of letterboxes.”

BN: “Are there any particular criminal activities that people should be aware of, that are usually more common over the festive period?”

SB: “While the vast majority of people in Merseyside are law-abiding there is a small minority who are intent on committing crime during the festive period so we do see a rise in burglaries, robberies and thefts during this time of year.

“Operation Shepherd is designed to target offenders and keep our communities safe with high visibility patrols, plain-clothed officers
and specialist teams such as our mounted and dogs section as well as air support.

“While burglaries have fallen across Merseyside over the last three years thanks to our robust and targeted policing operation – Operation Castle – you can help us to keep your homes safe. It is very important that people are extra-vigilant this time of year and ensure they take home security seriously.

“Many burglaries can be prevented by taking very simple measures such as ensuring all windows and doors are locked, even when at home.

“We also tend to see a rise in domestic abuse at Christmas and New Year. However, it is sadly happening across Merseyside every single day. We want to reach out to victims of domestic abuse, their friends, families, colleagues and neighbours to let them know help available all year round so they don’t need to continue to suffer in silence.

“We know some people experiencing domestic abuse cannot break the cycle by themselves. We all have a part to play in helping to stop this. If you know someone is suffering do something about it – don’t let them suffer in silence. If you don’t want to call the police call one of the many support agencies out there who can help. Please don’t turn a blind eye. Your help could end up saving a life.

“In the festive season we often see an increase in people drink or drug driving. It can be tempting to think one more drink won’t hurt as people get swept up by the party mood.

“That drink could take you above the legal drink-drive limit and if caught you will face strict penalties. Drink or drug driving shatters lives. Just one drink above the limit, taking an illegal substance or certain prescription medication can slow your response time and significantly impair your ability to drive.

“It could mean you take a corner too fast, miss a red traffic light, mount a pavement or have a crash, all of which could see you or someone else suffer life changing injuries or be killed as a consequence.

“Our roads policing team will be carrying out spot checks throughout December to identify those who are over the limit or unfit to drive through drugs or certain prescription medication. They will also be carrying out these spot checks in the morning as many people don’t realise they can still be over the limit the day after.”

Operation Shepherd is a strategic campaign involving intelligence-led policing to inform our activity on the ground which will include high visibility patrols, plainclothes officers, officers from the dog, and mounted sections and air support.

Officers will be patrolling retail parks and areas where there are businesses to offer advice on how to improve their security including the use of DNA marking solutions, tracking devices, CCTV and fogging machines which fill premises with smoke when triggered.

Merseyside Police will also be continuing to support and keep a watchful eye over the vulnerable members of our communities and will be deploying specialist domestic abuse patrol cars during the period to help those who are suffering behind closed doors.

Merseyside Police video: Operation Shepherd.

Superintendent Steve Brizell warned, “This has been an incredibly hard year for everyone, a year unlike any other in living memory. I want to appeal directly to those involved in crime – search your conscience and consider how your actions will haunt your victims in this already difficult time.

“If you opt not to listen, our message is clear – there will be no hiding place. We will use every tactic available to us to track you down and put you before the courts where you can expect to feel the full force of the law.”

“Merseyside is a fantastic place to live and work, and we will be working hard to keep you all safe so you can enjoy this festive period in safety. Please help us by looking out for each other and yourselves. We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year!”

Superintendent Steve Brizell