RIVERSIDE, California — This gives a whole new meaning to SantaCon.
Undercover cops dressed as Santa and his elves made several busts of shoplifters and suspected car thieves at a shopping mall in California.
The Riverside police say they had assigned officers from their property crimes unit to work with store detectives at the Target store in the busy Canyon Springs shopping center last week.
Dubbing the operation, “Santa’s intervention,” in a matter of hours, the cops made several arrests, including one where Santa tackled a suspect to the ground.
“As the suspects exited the store with merchandise they just stole, Santa and his elf were waiting to take them into custody for the theft,” the department wrote on its Facebook page.
In one bust, the officers nabbed a woman walking out of the store with a shopping cart full of stolen items. They also found illegal narcotics in her pockets.
A second arrest involved a local transient who cops say is a habitual thief at this particular store. Store detectives recognized him as he entered the store but stopped him before he could steal again. He was subsequently arrested for trespassing and being in possession of illegal narcotics.
The third arrest involved 55-year-old Patrick Seilsopour who allegedly stole expensive Lego toy sets totaling $1,000. He was arrested outside the store by Santa and his elf for grand theft. Cops say Seilsopour is believed to have committed similar retail thefts at several Target stores in the region.
Toward the conclusion of the operation, detectives received information about three suspicious men casing vehicles in the shopping center parking lot. One of the undercover detectives spotted the men in the act of stealing an older white Honda CR-V.
Two of the suspects saw the detective and ran off but were quickly apprehended by the other officers. One suspect resisted arrest but was taken into custody with the help of the undercover Santa, who tackled him to the ground.
Another suspect was detained by the undercover elf, who held him at gunpoint. The third suspect who actually stole the Honda, managed to get away but the vehicle was found abandoned nearby. Cops say they know who the man is.