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Local Cops Look to Send ‘Strong Message’ to Criminals During Holidays

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Local law enforcement agencies launch Operation Christmas Presence as a way to deter criminal activity this holiday season. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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With Christmas less than a month away, Fresno shopping centers are becoming busy with customers shuttling from store to store looking for that perfect gift.

Others resort to shopping online as, day by day, delivery boxes arrive at their front door.

The abundance of purchases laying around or being carried around is enticing for criminals during this time of year.

To combat the theft and other retail crime that occurs during the holidays, local law enforcement officials join together each year for Operation Christmas Presence.

Effort to Send a Strong Message to Criminals

Operation Christmas Presence has been in effect every year since 1997 as part of a collaborative effort between the Fresno Police Department, The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama says the program is meant to deter anyone thinking of committing a crime.

We want to send a strong message this year as we would in any year’s past that any would-be criminals that local, county and state law enforcement are focused on reducing property crime and violent crime during the holiday season,” said Balderrama. 

Increased Police Presence

To scare away or catch any potential criminals, law enforcement agencies will be increasing their officer presence at local shopping and retail centers.

That includes undercover officers looking for suspicious activity, stolen cars, and potential burglars. 

Balderrama said agencies are increasing the presence of bike officers and mounted patrol units, which are both highly visible and mobile. 

In addition, officers will also be utilizing surveillance cameras and other technology to keep an eye on shopping areas and to identifty suspects.

Shopping Safety Tips 

  • When out shopping, park in well-lit areas, don’t walk alone, avoid distractions such as talking on the cell phone when walking to stores and don’t leave your purse unattended.
  • Never leave items in plain sight. An even better idea is to remove all valuable items from inside your vehicle when parked outside.
  • Always close vehicle windows and make sure doors are locked.

Remember to Safeguard Those Christmas Packages

Officials say people should take precautions around their homes, as well.

Criminals will be on the lookout for people unloading gift purchases in their driveway or in shared parking areas of apartment complexes. Packages delivered by online shopping services are also tempting targets for thieves.

Fresno County Sheriff-elect John Zanoni warns against leaving any valuables in a car and encourages people to collect their mail and packages as soon as they get home.

A lot of people I know shop on Amazon and do online shopping,” said Zanoni. “Be vigilant, use ring cameras, do your best to get home and get those packages in a timely manner.” 

Watch out for porch pirates this holiday season. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

Online Shopping Tips

  • If you order a package, select a destination where someone will be there to receive it. Possibilities other than your house include your workplace or a relative who is typically home. (Some services also offer delivery lockers and neighborhood pick-up sites.)
  • Sign up for text or email delivery notifications so you will know when your shipment arrives.
  • Consider installing a parcel lock box at your home.
  • Utilize exchange zones located at all five Fresno PD district stations when selling/purchasing items using local social media channels.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at liz.juarez@gvwire.com

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