25th "Operation Christmas Presence" aims to protect Fresno holiday shoppers

Among the biggest tips from police to shoppers is to shop in groups if you can and to always be vigilant.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022
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The holiday season delivers a new set of dangers for shoppers, but local law enforcement is rolling out its own holiday tradition to protect people.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The holiday season delivers a new set of dangers for shoppers, but local law enforcement is rolling out its own holiday tradition to protect people.

This is the time of year when parking lots of busy shopping centers will fill up with shoppers and when crooks think people are easy targets.

But police are trying to make it a lot tougher for them.

Law enforcement is lining up for the 25th year of "Operation Christmas Presence" around Fresno malls.

Fresno police, the California Highway Patrol, and the Fresno County Sheriff's Office are teaming up to step up patrols at every mall and shopping corridor.

"It's been quite some time since we've had anything happen at our major shopping areas," said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama. "You know, that's really a credit to our police officers who've tried to remain visible and proactive."

Balderrama says violent crime is down this year in Fresno, but burglaries are happening more frequently.

Police recorded 2,260 commercial burglaries through November 6 - up from 1,370 in 2021, but down from 2020.

Officers believe just being present at shopping centers can curtail crime, and some shoppers said they feel the same way.

"When I see the presence of all the police and I see them on their horses, I feel really safe so I can come out here and shop a little more, a little later," said Carla Simmons, who was shopping at Fashion Fair Mall with her granddaughters.

Away from the malls, sheriff's deputies say they'll be looking for porch pirates and CHP officers are monitoring local highways for criminals riding the flash mob retail theft trend.

"Organized retail teams that are going up and down the (Highway) 99 corridor doing theft in multiple jurisdictions," said CHP Capt. Dave Yokley. "That'll be our focus."

Among the biggest tips from police to shoppers is to shop in groups if you can and to always be vigilant -- meaning put the phone down until you get to a safe place.