A special division of Lima’s police force has been known to dress as street sweepers, vendors, or as homeless people in order to patrol its territory and detect criminal activity.
With the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, some of those cops have donned a new but familiar disguise: Papa Noel, or Santa Claus.
“We are able to imitate any type of character,” Peru National Police Col. Jorge Angulo told America TV. “This is a special character. We have had the opportunity to raid a home for the issue of drug sales.”
In a police video released online, an officer dressed as Santa Claus can be seen smashing through a door with a sledgehammer, conducting a search of a home, and leading drug suspects out in handcuffs.
During that raid, Peruvian police arrested four suspects and seized 4,564 packets of cocaine hidden in three houses. “The detainees were left with open months upon seeing Santa Claus,” news site Metro Peru reported.
In the video below, police officers dressed as Santa Claus can be seen during the raid and on patrol.
Crime, particularly drug-related crime, is an issue of special concern in Lima and in Peru more broadly. Assaults and shootings have taken place in restaurants, and there have been killings of merchants and workers in broad daylight, all of which has contributed to a sense of insecurity, according to La Prensa.
Lima and the port city of Callao, which is just west of the Peruvian capital, have seen high levels of drug-related crime, as gangs compete for influence of the trafficking in the country that has become the second-largest producer of cocaine, behind Colombia, as well as a hub for counterfeiting and forgery.
“The best gift we can give is a little security to the people,” Angulo said.
Police in Peru have received heightened scrutiny in recent months, as reports have emerged that members of the police forces have formed “death squads” and that successful operations have been staged.
High levels of official complicity and of corruption within the government and law enforcement have long shielded police members involved in criminal activity, and the prevalence of such complicity seems likely to undercut some recent laws aimed at combating organized crime and official impunity.