SAN DIEGO–Be on the lookout for an important Santa and law enforcement operation Saturday. Lights will be flashing and sirens blaring on 350 or so police cars as they leave SeaWorld and head to Target on Sports Arena Boulevard Saturday for the 20th Shop With a Cop spree. Santa will be buzzing the caravan from a helicopter overhead to make sure all go in good cheer.
More than 300 third-graders specially selected by school counselors will be whisked away before 7 a.m. and taken to SeaWorld to be paired with a law enforcement officer or two from various local, state and federal agencies. They will be treated to breakfast and a private animal show before heading to Target for a $100 shopping spree.
SeaWorld, Target, STAR/PAL, and the San Diego Crime Commission help sponsor the event. This year, the San Diego County Probation Department and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office took the lead in fundraising for the event and planning the festivities.
“They will get the opportunity now to say ‘I had the most wonderful day with a cop today,’” said Linda Yoakum-Latimer, a supervising probation officer. Some of the kids who participate may otherwise not hear about positive encounters with officers.
Certainly, the main goal is to give the children happy holidays. The children get to spend $100 tax free to buy gifts for themselves and their family. At the same time, Shop With a Cop lets law enforcement officers show their fun side and children can see officers are good allies, maybe even be someone to look up to, she said.
“I just hope and pray for each one of them that they can take something positive out of this,” said Yoakum-Latimer.
Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins will lead off the caravan on the ground with the Target mascot dog while coordinating with Santa overhead around 10 a.m. Once at Target, the helicopter will land, letting out Santa, Mrs. Claus and an elf, and the kids will proceed into the store with their law enforcement partners.
After the children choose their gifts and pay, volunteers will wrap their presents for free and the kids will have an opportunity to visit Santa and climb aboard various law enforcement vehicles on display behind the store.
Officers from every law enforcement agency within the county were invited to participate.