From playing non-stop Christmas carols in prison to passing out holiday cards with arrest warrants, many law enforcement agencies get into the holiday spirit. Some say they do it the name of public safety and peace on earth, while others may just be feeling a bit, well, Scroogey. Take a look at these holiday crackdowns, roundups and rules. What do you think — naughty or nice?
During a Virginia drug bust a few days before Christmas in 2014, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office gave suspects something with their arrest warrant: a Christmas card. The card, which featured the sheriff dressed as Santa, listed their Miranda warnings under a headline that read “Making Spirits Bright With Your Miranda Rights.” It was signed, “Merry Christmas, Sheriff Mike Brown and the BCSO Family.”
In the small town of Mercer, Pennsylvania, three judges postponed all jury trials in 1993 until after the holidays. Apparently, the judges were concerned that jurors would catch the Christmas spirit, hear schoolchildren caroling, and be more lenient toward defendants, according to an article in the New York Times. Since then, other legal experts have speculated about the so-called “Christmas Clemency” or the ‘‘Christmas effect,” basically the notion that jurors are more sympathetic in the days and weeks surrounding Christmas and give lighter sentences.
In 2005, Phoenix’s Joe Arpaio, then the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America, began a holiday tradition of playing almost around-the-clock Christmas music to 8,000 inmates in his Maricopa County jails. The playlist included Rudolph and “anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks,” according to the Washington Times. Many inmates did not enjoy this holiday cheer, and over the years, several sued, citing violations of their civil and religious rights and cruel and unusual punishment.
Over the years during the holidays, officials in Moreno Valley, Calif., have been ticketing motorists for failing to yield to Santa Claus in a crosswalk. Law enforcement set up at busy intersections and use a Santa decoy to catch inattentive drivers for “failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”
In December 2010, more than 70 fugitives in Florida were arrested in the days before Christmas during a roundup dubbed “Operation Seasons Greetings.” The goal of the round up, which was led by United States Marshals Florida Regional Task Force, was to “round up as many fugitives as possible prior to the holidays.”
In December 2017, New York City’s Mayor drew criticism for launching a program to make defendants happier in court. In exchange for a $15 gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts, low-level defendants were asked to complete a 144-question survey to rate the courtesy of judges, prosecutors and the temperature of courtroom. “Next thing, they’ll be giving out Macy’s gift cards so these perps could do their holiday shopping,” groused one police officer who disapproved of the program, according to the New York Post.
Europol, Europe’s top crime agency, launched an online advent calendar that revealed Europe’s most wanted criminals every day in the run-up to Christmas. The agency hit a snag, however, when data protection rules prevented it from publishing full pictures of the alleged criminals’ faces, according to Euronews. The mugshots were published with a black sensor bar over their eyes.
In 2018, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department in Graham, N.C., spent the holiday season putting local drug traffickers behind bars. Fed up that the county had become a drop off point for illegal drugs coming from the Mexican Cartels, the department launched an operation called the “12 Days of Christmas.” Law enforcement targeted high to mid-level drug traffickers and arrested 22 alleged drug dealers and seized cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin and opioids.
What would Christmas be without holiday crackdowns on drunk drivers? From coast to coast, law enforcement agencies implement checkpoints, zero tolerance or ‘no refusal’ initiatives in an effort to prevent and combat driving while intoxicated. But it doesn’t stop there. Law enforcement also launch sweeps to net alleged thieves, prostitutes, people behind on child support and bars selling booze to underage students home for the holidays. Such enforcement efforts sometimes carry catchy names, such as Operation Safe Christmas, Operation SANTA and Operation Scrooge. And while these initiatives are sometimes controversial, they are effective. Many people spend their holidays in handcuffs.
Be careful this Christmas season. If you do find your plans interrupted by a holiday crackdown or criminal allegation, call us at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online.