An undercover cop dressed as Santa Claus tackled a suspected car thief while another officer dressed as an elf held a second alleged thief at gunpoint during an undercover operation dubbed “Santa’s Intervention” in Riverside, Calif., last week.
Video of the December 10 incident showed two suspects take off running before being chased down by Santa and his elf. As Santa tackled one of the suspects, someone yelled, “Get ’em, Santa!”
The Riverside Police Department Property Crimes Unit and School Resource Officer Unit were managing an enforcement program focused on retail theft near a busy shopping center when the situation developed, the RPD said in a statement linked to video of the incident.
One group of detectives and officers conducted video surveillance in conjunction with loss prevention specialists from inside a local store while another group of law enforcement remained outside to detain any theft suspects.
“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 RPD explained.
Toward the end of the operation, law enforcement officers received a tip regarding three suspects who appeared to be “casing vehicles” in nearby parking lots.
According to police, one detective identified three men who were in the process of stealing a white Honda CR-V. Two of the alleged thieves saw the detective and fled on foot, at which point Santa and his elf chased down both of them. The remaining suspect took off with the stolen car, which was found abandoned after the incident.
Of the three alleged thieves, one was arrested for resisting arrest and possession of illegal substances.
“Changes in property crime laws within the recent years have contributed to increases in retail theft and shoplifting,” stated Detective Everth Bercian of the Property Crimes Unit. “Theft of merchandise totaling less than $950 is only a misdemeanor, and any arrest made whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor, results in little to no consequences for these crimes.”
The operation also led to the arrest of three more people, including a woman who boldly exited the store with a cart full of stolen merchandise, the RPS said. She was charged with misdemeanor theft.
Another “habitual thief” was detained for possession of illegal narcotics and trespassing. The suspect was previously advised to stay away from the business.
Patrick Seilsopour, 55, was also arrested for allegedly stealing “expensive Lego toy sets totaling $1,000.”
“Our Property Crimes Unit will continue with proactive enforcement operations in its continued mission to prevent and decrease criminal activity in our communities,” the RPD said.