FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Holiday sales attract the masses to Valley shopping centers. Unfortunately, the masses also attract the criminal element at this time of year.
Thieves are always looking for easy opportunities. Operation Christmas is designed to deter crime and help shoppers feel safe as they move from one store to another and to the parking lot.
Operation Christmas Presence rolled into River Park on two wheels as well as on horseback. It aims to send a message to criminals during the holidays. "Our message, clearly, this year is 'you better watch out'," said Chief Jerry Dyer, Fresno Police
Both uniformed and undercover officers will patrol popular shopping areas including Fashion Fair, Manchester, Fig Garden and the Fulton Mall. Shoppers were glad to see the officers making their rounds.
But a spike in gang violence presents a holiday challenge for Dyer who has to balance his resources to keep, not just shoppers, but the general public safe. "There's always a concern. We're always on the alert for any type of gang activity anywhere in Fresno, but especially around some of the shopping centers."
Shoppers can do their part to reduce crime. Heidi Ash and Michaela Gabriel make sure they park in well-lit areas and keep gifts hidden in their cars. "I usually put it in my trunk so people don't see it or cover it with something because people are crazy," said Gabriel.
CHP officers will also step up patrols to ensure the roads are safe. "Avoid distracted driving, travel at a safe speed, and designate a sober driver if you've been drinking," explained GabrielLt. Steven Robinson, CHP.
In River Park alone you could see as many as 30 officers on any given day throughout the season.
This marks the 18th year of Operation Christmas Presence.
Operation Christmas Presence aimed at keeping holiday shoppers safe