POLICE have launched an operation to cut Christmas tree thefts across a swathe of Hampshire.
Operation Tinsel follows a spate of thefts last year including 49 Christmas trees from a nursery in Wickham, 50 in Fleet and 82 from a store in Sherfield-on-Loddon.
And it comes as mixed weather across Europe means there are likely to be far fewer trees available this year.
Officers will be visiting retailers to discuss security and offer crime prevention advice.
This will include marking Christmas trees with Smart Water or other security marking products to aide officers in tracking down stolen trees.
Police will also be stepping up patrols around Christmas tree plantations and retailers throughout the festive season.
Officers will be working alongside Hampshire Trading Standards to share information with the aim to prosecute anyone found to be selling Christmas trees illegally.
Sergeant Ally Hibberd, said: “Due to the recent mixed climate across Europe there will be a decrease in the number of Christmas trees available for sale on the open market. The reduced supply may result in thefts of Christmas trees as offenders will see this as an opportunity to meet the seasonal demand.
“Stolen trees can cost law abiding retailers hundreds of pounds and have a serious impact upon their businesses. Some trees may be forensically or security marked, making it easier for police to trace them. I would urge members of the community to ensure they are buying their trees from reputable retailers.”
If you have any information about the theft of Christmas trees please contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101.