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HARTLEPOOL Police are wishing everyone a happy Christmas – even the town’s criminals.

Officers are visiting known crooks across the town to pass on their seasons greetings, and to warn them to stay out of trouble.

They are knocking on doors and handing out Christmas cards with a twist on the lyrics to Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

“You’d better not steal” and “we know if you’ve been bad or good” are among the festive warnings as the town’s force prepare for seasonal crime.

Shoplifting, domestic violence and alcohol-related trouble are among the problems police have to deal with at this time of year.

But as part of the Mail-backed Respect Hartlepool campaign, police chiefs are keen to stop those likely of offending before they do.

Temporary Chief Inspector Lee Rukin, of Hartlepool Police, said crime is down yet again this year, but police are keen to not see a spike in offending over the coming days.

He said: “We want to wish everyone in Hartlepool a Merry Christmas.

“We also want to make sure that everyone stays safe and enjoys the festivities.

“By visiting these addresses of active criminals and handing over the cards we are reminding them that they are being watched and we will catch them if they offend.

“We will help and support these people over the festive period and the Christmas card includes contacts for all the available support services.

“My clear message to those active in crime is we will help you to change your behaviour, but if you choose to cause misery to the people of Hartlepool we will follow you, we will stop and search you, and we will arrest you.

“We aim to disrupt all active criminals in the town and lock them up when they offend, whether it is Christmas or not”.

The Mail will be featuring a series of articles over the Christmas period on the range of initiatives being ran by Hartlepool Police at this time of year.

They will include a look at Operation Eagle, which sees plain-clothed officers hitting the streets every night to catch burglars and thieves red handed.

The festive spirit also sees plenty of parties, and with that comes alcohol-related trouble, including violent incidents at drinking hotspots and domestic disturbances.

Police are also warning motorists not to drink and drive, including being still over the limit the day after a big night out.

Acting Chf Insp Rukin is also calling on residents to support the campaigns to make sure everyone enjoys the season.

He added: “It is our intention to ensure Hartlepool people have a good Christmas, but we will need their help in combating those intent on spoiling it.

“The police and partner agencies can not do it alone”

The words written in the card

(To the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

You’d better watch out,

You’d better not cry,

You’d better not steal,

I’m telling you why,

Cleveland Police are patrolling the town.

We’re making a list,

We’re checking it twice,

We’re going to find out who’s naughty or nice,

Cleveland Police are patrolling the town.

We know when you are sleeping,

We know when you’re awake,

We know if you’ve been bad or good,

So be good for goodness sake.