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Santa and his elf — both undercover police officers — were monitoring for shoplifters at a Riverside Target store Thursday, when they spotted a man stealing a vehicle.

The officers were surveilling the store for a holiday enforcement program targeting retail theft, when they spotted three men “casing vehicles” in the parking lot, according to the Riverside Police Department.

One of them was inside a vehicle, in the act of stealing the white Honda SUV, police said. The two alleged accomplices saw the detective and ran.

One of them was caught by a gun toting elf in the same parking lot, while the third suspect struggled with plainclothes officers nearby until St. Nick arrived.

“Get ’em, Santa,” a man recording the confrontation yelled.

The man in the Honda was able to flee and the stolen vehicle was found abandoned nearby, officials said. Detectives have since identified him and say they will be making an arrest for car theft “in the future.”

Of the other two men detained, one was identified and later released. The other was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and resisting arrest, police said.

“Retail theft dramatically increases during the holiday shopping season and our detectives have been taking a proactive approach toward these crimes through this enforcement program dubbed ‘Santa’s Intervention,'” the department said in a written statement.

Anyone with additional information regarding the operation and arrests can contact Detective Everth Bercian at 951-826-5376 or