ARMED police will be deployed across Hampshire’s busiest shopping areas during the Christmas period in a bid to reassure shoppers.

Officers will patrol busy streets, shopping centres and Christmas markets across the county in the run-up to Christmas, in a move Hampshire police are describing as a “precautionary measure”.

No details are being released about the number of officers involved or when the patrols will take place.

But a Hampshire police spokesman said: “We work closely with organisers of all large pre-planned events in Thames Valley, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to ensure the appropriate security plans are in place and this includes Christmas markets.

“We advise where improvements need to be made.

“We continually review these plans to make sure that we provide an appropriate and proportional police presence and that the right police resources are in place to respond to incidents should they happen.

“The public may see armed police officers doing foot patrols.

“This isn’t part of a response to any particular threat, it’s a precautionary measure to provide reassurance.”

Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, added: “A huge amount of police effort is focused on stopping bad things happening. The constabulary is ready and stands ready if it is needed.

“Our priorities at the front line deploy to deter, mitigate, and respond where there are identified threats, such as crowded places and events, and feedback from the public is that they are reassured to see an armed police presence.

“We can all contribute to our safety by remaining alert and reporting anything of concern.”

Forces in the neighbouring counties of Surrey and Wiltshire say they were not planning to use enhanced patrols in the run-up to Christmas.

The move comes just months after the Echo reported how the number of times Hampshire Constabulary deployed armed police reached a ten-year high.

The figures, from the Home Office, show Hampshire police conducted 283 armed police operations in the 12 months to March 2018. This was an increase from the previous year, when armed officers attended 189 operations.

In October, the Chronicle also reported on the installation of new anti-terror bollards in Winchester – to replace the previous concrete blocks.

The £125,000 barriers, set up at the entry points to Winchester City Centre, were jointly funded by Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council.