Operation "Christmas Presence"

November 26, 2008 12:51:20 AM PST
There will be a new set of eyes watching you this holiday season while you are out shopping. Police want shoppers and those thinking of targeting them to smile, this year they'll be on camera.Tough economic times and desperate people can be a bad combination. So this year 230 officers will patrol shopping centers like this one to make sure you and your purchases are protected.

A watchful eye is dangling above the Christmas tree at Manchester Center. Nine cameras at this mall are monitoring activity. Already security guards on patrol say parking lot problems are way down.

Manchester Security Chief William Steproe said, "I think the word goes around on the street. People hear they're here the bad guys hear it and they talk. We do have some signage that says monitored by the Fresno Police."

On the other end of these cameras are Fresno Police volunteers and cadets looking for suspicious or criminal behavior. Police want to stop a concerning crime trend from carrying over into the Christmas season. Citywide car burglaries are up eight percent from last year. 249 more cars have been broken into compared to the prior year.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, "We want would be thieves to know this year that we're going to be watching them. They may not see us but we will see them."

Shoppers who we told about the presence of cameras said they welcome them, especially this time of year. "It does make me feel more secure that there's a video history of what is going on that people are being monitored. It kinda makes me feel like I've got a guardian angel," said Mike Thibert.

"I feel great about it. I mean there are a lot of security guards out and about now with the cameras in here I don't feel bad at all and the kids love coming here right," said Kit Miller.

Beginning Friday police officers will be in and out of uniform, on bikes and horses making sure this season isn't ruined by a Grinch out to steal your Christmas presents.

Police say electronics remain the hottest stolen items out of cars, things like ipods, and laptops. They want to remind shoppers to store all valuables in the trunk out of plain sight.

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