THEFTS from shops in Glasgow city centre have fallen almost 20% during the last nine months as police get tough on shoplifters.

Figures obtained by the Evening Times show the number of shoplifting incidents in the city centre has fallen 18.9%.

There were 1567 inci-dents of shoplifting in the nine months from April to the end of December, against 1933 in the same period last year.

The dramatic fall comes after police launched a dedicated crime unit, as part of a major crackdown on shoplifters, during the festive season.

Six officers were involved in the month-long campaign, which ran from the start of December until January 6.

Senior officers believe having a unit that focuses primarily on shoplifting is the key to driving down the number of incidents.

Chief Inspector Alan Porte, area commander for the city centre, said: "The shoplifting unit worked really well and I think these figures show that.

"Previously, in the run- up to Christmas, we had seen an increase in shoplifting.

"The unit was all about high-visibilty policing, reassuring the public that officers are on the streets, but also letting any potential criminals know we are there.

"Intelligence-led policing allowed us to police the entire area robustly.

"It is vital we have police officers in the right place at the right time.

"We specifically target any problematic areas and stores, the places our officers are needed.

"The message to anyone considering shoplifting is that they will be arrested and brought to justice."

As well as stamping out shoplifting, senior officers say that reassuring the public about their safety is a key part of their work.

Robberies fell more than 25% in the city centre last year, according to the latest police figures.

Officers recorded 62 incidents in the nine months from April to the end of December, against 83 during the same period the year before.

Mr Porte said: "Glasgow city centre is a safe place and we will work to ensure it is kept that way.

"We want people to come into the city and enjoy everything it has to offer, including the large shopping district.

"We will continue to work to make Glasgow as safe as possible."

Senior officers now plan to extend the dedicated unit, which is based at Stewart Street police office, during the summer.

Mr Porte added: "During the summer, the city will be busy with people enjoying the holidays, and tourists who have come to enjoy the city.

"It would be ideal to run the shoplifting unit during this period. It is something we will be looking at.

"We will definitely bring it back during the festive season, as we had great feedback from retailers."

Last year, we revealed that thefts from shops in Glasgow had increased 14% from 2011.

Figures obtained for police beats across the city, as part of our Crime On Your Streets series, revealed that the crime was booming at the heart of the city's Style Mile.

The city is the second biggest centre for shopping in Britain, after London's West End.

Officers have warned that all shops – including major stores and small independent shops – can fall victim to shoplifters.

Some stores are investing in what they call "revenue protection", such as when Tesco started putting electronic tags on packs of mince in its city centre stores.

Others have introduced store detectives and CCTV to protect their products.

Stuart Patrick, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said: "Glasgow's retail sector is held in high regard across the world so the drop in shoplifting reported by Strathclyde Police is welcome news.

"Retailers tell us that shoplifting is a matter of real concern, with businesses often engaged in a cat and mouse game with specialised gangs that target the city centre.

"We do however remain greatly concerned with the level of street begging which, we believe, also has criminal roots.

"Retailers of all sizes are regu-larly affected by organised crime, so we commend the work of Strath-clyde Police in making progress in curbing shoplifting."