Undercover police swooped on Dewsbury town centre in a bid to catch organised gangs of shoplifters red-handed.
The scale of shoplifting in the town has reached such an extent that some retailers are losing up to £4,000 a week to thieves.
And police say organised gangs and opportunistic thieves target retailers who are seen as an easy target.
A special patrol involved 16 plain clothes officers in the town centre last Friday.
DCI Paul Jeffrey said shoplifting had evolved into a more organised activity.
He said: “It’s a significant concern, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Some shops are seen as a soft touch.”
There were 57 incidences of shoplifting across Kirklees last week, up by 22 from the same time last year.
At a meeting of Dewsbury Chamber of Trade on Monday, one member said they was aware that some retailers were losing up to £4,000 a week.
DCI Jeffrey said he was determined to change the perception that shoplifiting is an way to easy way to make cash quickly.
“We are determined to stamp out the significant commercial loss to businesses and the wider community in this area,” he said.
Operation Viper will continue working with the Neighbourhood Policing Team in the coming weeks to catch thieves in the act.
Increased police presence had already resulted in more criminals being caught.
“We are taking this to the next level by dealing with it as it is happening,” DCI Jeffrey added.
“The economic and emotional cost to small businesses in particular can lead them to go out of business. That is the last thing we want.”
Dewsbury Chamber of Trade President Trish Makepeace said: “Anything that gets rid of shoplifters has got to be a good thing. Traders are suffering as it is in the economic climate without shoplifters.”
DCI Jeffrey called on the public to help police in their task by shopping the shoplifters. He said: “Report it at the time - don’t wait.”