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A MAJOR police operation is underway in Hampshire to try and reduce the number of Christmas trees stolen in the county.

Operation Tinsel has been launched by police after almost 200 trees were stolen last year in the run up to the festivities.

And it comes as mixed weather across Europe means there are likely to be far less trees available this year.

Among the businesses targeted was a nursery in Wickham which had 49 trees stolen, a store in Sherfield-on-Loddon which had 82 taken and a compound in Fleet which lost 50 trees to thieves.

Now police in the north of the county are visiting retailers to talk about security arrangements which could include spraying Smart Water over the branches to help them be tracked down.

Christmas tree plantations and stores will also be the target of heightened police patrols as the operation, in conjunction with Trading Standards, gets underway.

Sergeant Ally Hibberd said: “Due to the recent mixed climate across Europe there will be a decrease in the number of Christmas trees available for sale on the open market. The reduced supply may result in thefts as offenders will see this as an opportunity to meet the seasonal demand.

“Stolen trees can cost law abiding retailers hundreds of pounds and have a serious impact on their businesses. Some trees may be forensically or security marked, making it easier for police to trace them. I would urge members of the public to ensure they are buying trees from reputable retailers.”

Anyone with information about the theft of Christmas trees is asked to contact police on 101