Car thief's tips and Operation Christmas Presence protect shoppers at Fresno malls

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno's malls are about to get very busy and police will be blending in with the crowds.

More than 100 officers from the Fresno Police Department, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol are going to be spread out at malls like this one for the next month or so to make sure shoppers are safe.

But they still say you need to help them help you.

In the parking lot of the Fashion Fair mall, police cars are mingling with shoppers, and officers are keeping a watchful eye.

"Whether they are a gang member, a person on probation, a would-be thief: we are going to be out in force and we're going to be looking for them as they attempt to victimize other people," said Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer.

The 21st year of Operation Christmas Presence is designed to deter thieves like David, a career criminal who talked to police about his approach to holiday shopping by burglary.

"People, they get careless, they're too much in a hurry," the thief said. "Oh, I'm going to go to the store right away. I'll leave this here right away. By the time you're gone for a minute, I've already taken the things you left in the car."

He targets distracted people and tries to hide out in parking lots, especially in dark areas, where he looks for easy marks.

"Like right here, there's a purse right here," he said as he walked through a mall parking lot. "I will take it. There's already one victim right there."

Police say to park in well-lit spots and leave your valuables at home or keep them with you.

Officers will patrol the malls and monitor video feeds from River Park and areas around Fashion Fair and Manchester.

They're committed to beefing up protection for shoppers and they've seen it work before.

"When we look at the crime maps after the holiday season, there are dramatic reductions when we used to see dramatic increases and we're going to see that again this year," said Chief Dyer.

And you might not always notice police at the malls. A lot of them will be undercover detectives who specialize in investigating burglaries and car thefts.
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