A CHRISTMAS shoplifting crackdown in Darlington led to four people being jailed, new figures have revealed.

Operation Simos, an annual police event designed to tackle to traditional spike in shoplifting offences over the festive period, saw 43 people arrested for a variety of offences.

Police officers and PCSOs, some in plain clothes, worked with Darlington's town centre wardens and CCTV operators in an intelligence-led crackdown which targeted the peak times and locations for shoplifters.

The figures released by Darlington police relate to the main month-long operation between November 14 and December 14, although officers carried on with the scheme until Christmas Eve.

Of the 43 people arrested in the town centre, 19 appeared before Darlington Magistrates’ Court, charged with a total of 27 offences.

The rest of the people who were stopped by police were dealt with using fixed penalty notices or cautions, a standard way of dealing with first time offenders or low value crimes.

Of the people who appeared in court, four were given custodial sentences up to six months, 13 were given community orders, some with attached alcohol or drug treatment orders and the rest received fines or conditional discharges.

Two cases are still going through the courts.

PC Dean Peacock, who helped to run Operation Simos, said: “Some of the offenders were already known to us. There are some prolific shoplifters where it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, they will carry on as usual.

“There were some occasions on the operation where our presence on the street in its self meant there were no shoplifting offences. The fact that we were heavily visible deterred them from shoplifting at all.

“There were of course days when we didn’t have the massive presence and couldn’t be there to deter people. But we couldn’t have done it without ShopWatch, where stores use radios to alert us and each other to known offenders or suspicious behaviour.

“The CCTV operators were also a huge help. If they spotted someone they know as a shoplifter they were straight on to us so we could intercept them before they even reached the town centre and turn them around.”