Suspected criminals will be stopped and searched on their way into Glasgow city centre tomorrow in a bid to target lawlessness and anti-social behaviour.

More than 160 additional officers from Strathclyde Police and the British Transport Police (BTP) will use metal detectors to target known troublemakers and suspects, whether they are in cars or using public transport.

The aim is to create a “ring of steel” around the city centre to prevent weapons and drugs being circulated and to reduce robberies and assaults.

The force’s figures show that robbery is 6% higher from November to January than it is during the summer. It is thought the seasonal increase is partly as a result of dark nights and the influx of Christmas shoppers.

Number plate recognition machines, which can check up to 3000 plates an hour, will be used to alert officers to routes suspects are taking towards the city.

Those flagged for gang fighting or suspected of carrying weapons or drugs will be stopped and searched. Community safety wardens, taxi stewards and door staff will also be on alert with mobile CCTV vans and hand-held metal detectors.

Detective chief superintendent Campbell Corrigan, who is leading the operation, said that for some people this might be the only time in the year that they come into the city centre at night and that ensuring their safety is paramount.

“The most important thing to stress is that this is aimed at making people feel safer,” he said. “The operation will be intelligence-led. We know who we want to target and the routes they are likely to take into the city.

“It is about preventing bad people coming into the city and ensuring those coming in for their Christmas shopping and nights out can go about their business safely.”

Major routes leading from outlying towns and housing estates all around the city will be covered in the operation.

The police chief continued: “We know who we are looking for and will know which vehicles we want to stop.

“Members of the public will not be unfairly targeted. We will be targeting known hotspots and transit routes.”

The operation will use around 12 portable metal detectors, many of which were paid for by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government announced last month that it had spent £90,000 on 16 detectors for Scotland’s police forces. Unlike arched detectors, the new pole-shaped devices can be quickly moved and set up in less than a minute, have a 360-degree range and can detect knives being carried within 10ft of the machine.

Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, said the new portable metal detectors would significantly cut the risk of knives being carried in town and city centres at night.

Operation Rose is based on similar campaigns mounted in London and Liverpool. Such campaigns saw a significant improvement in feelings of public safety.

The Merseyside operation stopped 677 vehicles and resulted in 89 arrests.

Operation Rose will be repeated across other areas and towns over the coming weeks.