Detectives from South Yorkshire Police launched covert Operation Holly in a bid to put people facing charges for offences, some serious, before the courts.
The team sent bogus cards to suspects on the force’s wanted list giving them the good news that they had been specially selected to receive a free hamper.
A basket of goodies, including bottles of bubbly, wine treats and a Christmas pudding, appeared artfully arranged on the convincing flyer that promised to bring “cheer at Christmas and memorable moments to your special occasions!”
In order to collect the freebie from Herald Hampers – the force’s festive front – all they had to do was arrange a delivery slot.
But when the door bell rang, instead of being greeted with a basket of goodies they were arrested and packed off to court.
In two days Operation Holly racked up 21 arrests, with some of the suspects wanted in relation to burglary, supplying an illegal article into prison, assault and fraud.
Others were wanted for dangerous driving and drink-driving offences, drugs offences and harassment.
Some of their cases were finalised on the day, with penalties including driving disqualifications, a recall to prison, a curfew and fines.
One person was remanded into prison custody.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Lee Berry, who oversaw the operation, said: “It’s encouraging that our innovative approach has yielded positive results and we will continue to explore new avenues for apprehending those wanted, which impacts upon the victims of crime. Sending officers to addresses where wanted people no longer reside is also a drain on valuable police resources.”
Mr Berry concluded: “Anyone who feels they are above the law might want to reconsider their stance. South Yorkshire Police will relentlessly pursue those who commit crime. If you commit crime in South Yorkshire we will come for you at any time, any place and in any guise to ensure we bring offenders to justice and keep our communities safe.”