RIVERSIDE, Calif. — It’s the most wonderful time of the year -- but not for car thieves.
Two police officers dressed as Santa Claus and an elf nabbed two men attempting to steal a car from the parking lot of a California store, KABC reported. Officials are looking for a third man who left in a white Honda CR-V, but said they know who he is and will arrest him.
The undercover police were in place to combat shoplifting at the shopping center, and on Thursday surveillance cameras caught the jolly elf and his assistant in action, KABC reported. The Riverside Police Department posted results on its Facebook page.
One man stole the Honda and got away. The vehicle was later found abandoned near the shopping center, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The other two men were not as fortunate, although they tried to flee.
In the video, the officer in the elf costume can be seen drawing his gun and ordering one of the men to get on his knees, People reported. The officer dressed as Santa is shown tackling the second man, who was resisting arrest, KABC reported.
One of the men was identified and later released, police said. The third man was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and resisting arrest.
Several more apparent shoplifters were arrested by police during the undercover operation, dubbed “Santa’s Intervention,” KABC reported.
Detectives conducted video surveillance at the Target store, located in the Riverside shopping center, KABC reported.
Among the people included was Patrick Seilsopour, 55, of Murrieta, who was accused of stealing Lego sets totaling $1,000, Riverside police wrote on Facebook.
“Retail theft dramatically increases during the holiday shopping season and our detectives have been taking a proactive approach toward these crimes,” the Riverside Police Department wrote on Facebook.