IT WAS a tactic inspired by the New York Police Department in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – and now it’s been used in north Hamp-shire.

Last Friday, scores of officers travelled en masse to villages and towns in the Basingstoke district policing area in a bid to confront rural crime issues.

The operation, dubbed Op Surge, saw a total of 18 police vehicles and 36 officers converge on various places including Kingsclere, Overton and Tadley.

It is thought to be the first operation of its kind in Hampshire. Police in New York have used the tactic regularly since 9/11 as a show of strength against the city’s potential terrorist targets.

Rural safer neighbourhoods team inspector Darren Rawlings told The Gazette: “It went really well. We have turned over people, given street warnings for cannabis, and we have had a good level of community engagement.

“We have stopped people committing crime in the rural patch. It lets people know we are proactive in taking the fight against crime out to the villages.”

The group split into two to patrol Bramley, Kingsclere, Overton and Whitchurch. They then joined together to enter Tadley, making their presence known by turning on their blue lights.

After a public briefing in the car park of the Sainsbury’s supermarket in Mulfords Hill, the group split up again to patrol the town.

One patrol, led by Tadley Sergeant Martyn Cullis, visited the skate park in Silchester Road, where they spoke to a group of young people.

One of them, Alex Farmer, 18, of Farringdon Way, Tadley, said: “It’s good. They have spoken to us and engaged with us on a personal level.”

The convoy finished its night by passing along the pedestrian section of Winchester Street at the Top of The Town, in Basingstoke, before returning to Whitchurch.

During the operation, officers gave two street warnings for possession of cannabis, seized alcohol from a group of teenage boys in Tadley and visited 24 licensed premises to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.

A lorry carrying a giant digital screen was also used to promote crime prevention messages.