Leading organisations have joined forces to keep Sunderland city centre safe during the countdown to Christmas.

Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) and the Bridges have teamed up with Northumbria Police to support Operation Jasper, to crack down on crime in the run-up to the festive season.

The initiative means that there will be more police in and around the city centre, to monitor known offenders, keep residents and shoppers safe and offer extra reassurance to businesses.

And there will be no let-up, with an extra push to tackle shoplifting and anti-social behaviour from 25 November, under the name of Operation Kraken.

Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID believes the initiatives highlight the value of working in partnership.

“Partnership is at the heart of everything we do at the BID and at this time of year it’s really important to create the best possible trading environment for our businesses, to ensure that staff and visitors feel safe,” she said.

“Working with both the Bridges and Northumbria Police means we can reinforce our zero tolerance approach to crime and highlight that Sunderland city centre is fantastic place to work and visit.”

The city is already involved in a number of successful initiatives to help to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour throughout the year, including the on-going Pubwatch and Shopwatch schemes.

Andy Bradley, centre director at the Bridges, is also welcoming the scheme as the shopping centre gets into gear for an influx of Christmas shoppers.

He said: “The Bridges is fully behind this initiative as we have been in previous years and we look forward to a busy run-up to Christmas for both our shoppers and retailers.

“We want shoppers to enjoy the festive experience, safe in the knowledge that they come to the city centre and enjoy a positive and welcoming atmosphere.”

Sergeant Maria Ord said Northumbria Police was also delighted to be part of the scheme which ensures businesses and shoppers are safe and secure.

“The operation will see more officers on patrol in the city centre, working closely with partners to catch criminals and ensure anybody who commits crime and disorder over the festive period is dealt with swiftly and robustly,” she said.

“We do not apologise for this zero-tolerance approach, and our message is clear; anyone who decides to engage in criminality or anti-social behaviour which threatens the festive spirit within our city centre will face action and could spend Christmas behind bars.”

For more information about Sunderland BID and the Bridges, visit www.sunderlandbid.co.uk or www.thebridges-shopping.com.