Orlando officers play Santa for families in need

ORLANDO, Fla. — Decked out in a badge, mask, and Santa hat, Orlando police officers were ready to serve as Santa’s helpers Saturday.

Just like Santa, officers set out with a list of local children in need of gifts this holiday season.

READ: Christmas amid coronavirus: Letters to Santa show pandemic’s effects on children

“A lot of these names came from community centers, churches, and the neighborhood patrol units themselves,” said Officer Hannah Crowe.

The Neighborhood Patrol Unit, launched in November, is a part of the department’s efforts to build relationships between the community and officers.

READ: Toys for Tots falling short on donations for holiday gift drive: How you can help

Officer Marcus Hyatt said programs like this help bridge the divide between law enforcement and the public.

“When the people in the community trust us, then they will be more likely to work with us,” Hyatt said.

Officers hope to hand out gifts to 254 kids this year.

Cierra Putman

Cierra Putman, WFTV.com

Cierra Putman flew south to join Eyewitness News in July 2016.