Undercover police dressed as Santa Claus and his elf thward suspected car thieves

Two undercover police officers dressed as Santa Claus and his elf stopped two suspected car thieves outside a Riverside, California, shopping center Thursday.

Riverside Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit, assisted by officers from the School Resource Officer Unit, conducted a holiday enforcement program — which they’re calling “Santa’s Intervention” — targeting retail theft during the holidays, the police department wrote on Facebook.

On Thursday, authorities conducted video surveillance inside the Canyon Springs shopping center’s Target as other detectives and officers remained outside to help detain any suspected thieves.

Of those waiting outside were a detective and officer dressed as Santa Claus and his elf. At one point, they received information about three suspicious men attempting to steal vehicles in the parking lot. One of the undercover detectives saw the suspects trying to steal an older white Honda CR-V. Two of the men tried to flee the scene after spotting the officers, but were quickly apprehended.

“One suspect resisted arrest but was taken into custody with the help of our undercover Santa, and the second was detained by the undercover elf,” police wrote on Facebook.

The third suspect drove stole off in the stolen Honda before police could reach him. The car was later found abandoned nearby and the driver was not located, but detectives have him identified and will be making an arrest for car theft in the future, they said.

One of the two suspects detained was later released, while the other was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and resisting arrest, police said.

Also on Thursday, undercover police outside the Canyon Springs shopping center arrested three suspects who attempted to shoplift.