UNDERCOVER patrols have been launched in crime hotspots after thieves targeted 50 cars.

Police have launched Operation Original following a spate of thefts from vehicles across the island. Officers will carry out both overt and covert patrols to catch and deter criminals.

Since the beginning of January, there have been 50 reports of vandalism and thefts from cars parked on Canvey.

PC Ian Risden, from the Castle Point and Rochford community policing team, described the levels of crime as “concerning.”

He said: “We have had quite a high spike in thefts from motor vehicles across Canvey recently.

“It is certainly something that we are concerned about.

“We are bringing in an operation, named Operation Original, which involves overt and covert patrols in the hotspot areas which have been targeted in the past.

“We are in the process of identifying these hotspots.

“We hope that by having the patrols we can identify those responsible and catch them to stop this sudden trend.”

Last Monday night, thieves left behind a trail of destruction after breaking into at least six days in an overnight crime spree.

Tools, loose change and other items were stolen from vehicles parked in First Avenue, Second Avenue, Marine Approach and Ash Road. Possessions were left scattered in the road after the cars were ransacked.

It led to calls from residents for heightened patrols.

Ray Howard, veteran borough and town councillor, has welcomed the drive to crackdown on thefts and criminal damage.

He said: “These people have got to be caught, named and shamed and dealt with accordingly.

“We have got to catch these people who have no regard for the law and the community.

“They have got to go to court and face the consequences because they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

“I welcome the operation and we, the council, and the community safety partnership must work together in achieving the objective of catching these people.”

So far, no arrests have been made in relation to the spate of thefts and enquiries are continuing.

Anyone with information can call Essex Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.