COPS armed with semi-automatic weapons are to mingle with Christmas shoppers in busy high streets and precincts across North Wales.
Officers carrying MP5's are being brought in to patrol shopping centres including Parc Llandudno and outside the Asda store opposite, and Broughton Retail Park.
One prospective Conwy councillor last night accused police of “bully-boy tactics” and raised fears the armed officers could intimidate shoppers and drive away tourists.
Tory candidate for Llandudno Felicity Elphick said she was also concerned about a major incident being sparked if officers ever had to fire their weapons.
But North Wales police says the aim is to crack down on professional criminals travelling over the border from Merseyside and Cheshire to steal shops’ Christmas takings.
Officers will follow intelligence leads to help prevent cash-in-transit robberies, and hi-jacks of HGVs.
The force was last night keeping the names of shopping areas included in operation Fortress patrols under wraps.
But the first teams of armed officers have already been spotted outside Asda in Llandudno, and the supermarket last night revealed patrols included nearby Parc Llandudno.
Bosses at Broughton Retail Park in Flintshire, which has also signed up to the scheme, last night welcomed efforts to prevent a “gun culture” spreading to North Wales.
The month-long operation – described by cops as creating a “border fortress” is being run with police in Merseyside and Cheshire.
Roadblocks will be set up on some roads to halt crooks in their tracks.
Broughton Retail Park manager Colin Gilligan said armed gangs would see takings from North Wales retailers during the “golden quarter” from October to December, as ‘easy pickings’.
He said: “The message is: ‘Don’t bother coming here because we’re prepared’. ”
But Ms Elphick who is set to contest the Penrhyn Ward seat for Conwy in May, said: “I want to make public my total horror and shock at walking into Asda Llandudno to be greeted by two ‘Storm Troopers’ carrying what looked like machine guns.
A spokeswoman for North Wales Police said: “Much of the activity will be centred around disrupting those intent on carrying out cash-in-transit robberies and crimes involving HGVs.”
David Powell: Daily Post
What the hell is this country coming too?.