SAN MARCOS (CBS 8) - The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is trying to keep thieves from ruining your holiday season. This year, instead of waiting for them to strike, deputies performed a two-week long sting operation to check in on known thieves who are on probation or out on parole.
In an earlier story, News 8 reported on the sheriff's department's holiday watch, and while most shoppers were very supportive, some rolled their eyes and said "big deal, you're patrolling a really nice shopping center, what good is that?"
The sheriff's department responded by showing us some of the operations they do under the radar this holiday season.
For two weeks, deputies fanned out across North County with guns drawn in surprise visits with no warrants needed. They're tracking down nearly 100 people who may try to ruin your holiday by taking your presents, robbing you or stealing from a store.
"Occasionally what we do is unannounced searches. We'll come to the door, we knock on the door, we announce our presence and we explain to them we are here on a Fourth (Amendment) waiver search," Lt. Mike McClain said.
The former crooks are either on probation or parole as part of their release from jail or prison. They signed away their Fourth Amendment right to a search by warrant.
"Obviously it allows us to keep them on guard. We want to make sure that they are no longer involved in criminal activity," Lt. McClain said.
With support overhead and dozens of deputies on the ground, 96 contacts were made that lead to 40 searches. For those who revert to illegal lifestyles, it's back to jail to celebrate the season from a cell.
Deputies say it's their gift to you. The surprise visits yielded 16 arrests and a safer holiday season for the community.
"Well obviously if we get known thieves off of our beat then we can assume that they are not going to be in the shopping areas continuing to do their criminal activity," Lt. McClain said.
Deputies have been busy in the East County as well. On Nov. 20, 67 people were arrested for outstanding warrants.
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