FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The holiday shopping season is here and Black Friday deals have already started. Fresno County officials say while shopping ramps up, so will their presence with Operation Christmas Presence.
Officials from Fresno Police, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and CHP will maintain a presence during the Christmas shopping season, with a focus on safety.
Shoppers like Josephine Montejano are taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get some gifts for her family.
“Great-grandchildren get cards with gifts, and all the grandchildren are in college with kids so they should get me stuff,” said Montejano.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama wants to make sure holiday shoppers are safe.
“We want to send a strong message this year as we have in years past, to 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 Chief Balderrama.
Not only will patrols around malls and their parking lots increase, but so will the number of undercover officers. One special cause for concern is the smash-and-grab or flash mobs.
“Focus on organized retail teams that are going down the 99 corridor that are doing theft in multiple jurisdictions. That will be our focus,” said CHP Central Division Captain Dave Ukle.
Balderrama says those flash mobs haven’t happened in Fresno yet this year and even though violent crime is trending downward he wants people to stay aware.
“All violent crime tends to go down a little bit during the cold weather months. Typically, during the holiday season, we do see an uptick in carjackings and robberies, and we have seen that here in the last couple of weeks,” said Balderrama.
Some shoppers welcome the extra patrol.
“I’ve never had a problem in Fresno, I’ve been here all my life. Now, I’m really safe here,” said Montejano.
Officials encourage shoppers to remain vigilant when out shopping, but also when they get home.