OXFORD’S annual crackdown on muggings to protect foreign students is now under way.

Thames Valley Police launched Operation Buzzard for the fifth year running on Monday to make sure that the high numbers of tourists and language students visiting Oxford over the summer don’t get caught out.

The operation will also offer crime prevention advice and tackle issues of antisocial behaviour, following past complaints about language students drinking in the city’s parks.

The police force will be placing patrols in hotspots using specialist units and will work alongside Oxford Safer Communities Partnership, park rangers, local councils, community response teams, the city’s two universities and the Language Schools Forum.

Det Sgt Bill Sykes, of the Oxford Robbery Team based at St Aldate’s, said: “Operation Buzzard is a partnership approach to tackle this issue and I am very grateful for the continued help and support provided by all our partners including those who are engaged in the Oxford Language Forum.

“EF language schools have the largest number of students throughout the summer months and worked closely with Thames Valley Police and partners in the planning stages of this operation.

“Our neighbourhood policing teams are committed to tackling issues of antisocial behaviour problems, including litter and underage alcohol around the park areas during the summer months. We will be working closely with those teams as well.”

The campaign will run for three months, during which time an estimated 5,000 foreign visitors will have stayed in Oxford.

Crime reduction officer Julie Young said: “We would like to ensure that people are aware of the steps to take to avoid being a victim of crime.

“We recommend that you should stay in well lit areas and if you feel threatened you should make your way to a public place and raise the alarm.

“It is important to be aware of your surroundings and minimise the use of your mobile phone in public, avoid walking home alone at night, taking short cuts and wearing headphones.”

Between April 2012 and March 2013, there were 151 robberies in Oxford, down 14 per cent on 175 in the previous year. But the 2011/12 figure was down 32 per cent on the 2010/11 figure of 257 robberies.

City councillor Dee Sinclair, board member for crime and community, said: “I hope that this campaign will help highlight to tourists and visitors that they need to be aware of their surroundings and ensure that they keep their valuables safe when they are out and about. Oxford is a safe place to visit but like every city we see a large influx of people in the summer and we want people to enjoy their visit.”

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