Imagine an old man in a rocking chair saying this, ” Well, I’ll be! I never thought the day would come when we needed to fear Santa Clause.” We can look past the fact that he is an old guy who has children lined up around the block to sit on his lap and tell him secrets. But, it’s true, this time of year the Santa beard and suit is the best disguise to blend in with the delusional masses of shoppers and steal your wallet or break into your car. BEWARE OF SANTA.
It’s that time of year when we start to see a wave of Santa Claus-related crime.
We’ve already had a man described as the “Santa Claus burglar” in Deerfield Beach, a white-bearded man who was caught on surveillance cameras as he broke into automobiles.
Last week, Lakeland police were looking for a man in a “Santa Claus beard” who broke into a McDonald’s. Meanwhile, police in Rock Hill, S.C., arrested a man in a Santa hat pretending to be collecting toys for a charity.
And it’s not even December yet. That’s when the serious Santa misadventures usually kick in.
New Zealand had the wildest Santa crime spree six years ago when dozens of men dressed as Santa Claus ran through the streets of Auckland, stealing merchandise from stores and assaulting guards with beer bottles.
Easter Bunny unsullied by crime
My favorite Claus-related blotter item was about Englishman Lee O’Reilly, who decided last Christmas season to put on his Santa suit for some post-alcohol fun.
“I bought the Santa costume to dress up for my 2-year-old daughter but she was scared of it, so I put it in the cupboard,” he told The Evening Chronicle in Newcastle. “I’d been drinking with a friend and decided to put the Santa outfit on for a laugh.”
His idea of laughs was to walk outside in his Santa outfit and slash the tires of his neighbor’s car.
Somebody saw him doing it, and when the police pulled up, O’Reilly was caught red-suited, and still holding the incriminating kitchen knife in his hand.
Ho, oh, no!
Last year, the Florida Legislature, ever vigilant, passed legislation that prohibits sex offenders from finding work as either Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
But you never hear about Easter Bunny-related crime. It’s usually just the Santas who misbehave.
It’s a phenomenon closely followed by Susen Mesco.
Mesco runs a Santa Claus school in Colorado, a 54-hour intensive training program that deals with Santa ethics as well as the performance aspects of the job.
“I teach what skills a Santa needs to know,” she said. “Everything from makeup, to acting, to learning how to walk 50 feet with a live reindeer without getting gored.”
A good Santa is healthy, moral
When bad Santas make the news, it bothers her.
“I can make anybody look like a Santa,” she said. “But to be a good Santa, you have to be healthy and morally available.”
Criminal acts by morally unavailable people in Santa costumes bother her, especially when they’re covered by the news media in a way that leads children to believe that the real Santa is involved.
“The press needs to be more responsible,” she said. “I call the press to action. You need to just say that there was a bad person pretending to be one of Santa’s helpers.
“We need to protect that for the children.”
OK, children. So, if you’re reading this, first of all, congratulations.
Other than the birthers, I don’t get many fantasy-based dreamers who read my column.
Now, as for the Santa Claus characters you’re bound to see in police stories over the next few weeks, please be advised that these people might not actually be the real Santa, who allegedly only breaks into homes one night a year.