Phoenix, AZ (KPNX) Taking a picture with Santa Claus is one of the most recognized holiday traditions. Parents watch as their children sit on Santa's lap telling him what they want for Christmas. But how do parents know if Santa is safe?
In recent years, there have been several instances across the nation of Santas behaving badly. In North Carolina, Leander Dewey Jones pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. He worked as a shopping mall Santa Claus.
Last month in New Jersey, Charles Smith, who volunteers as Santa at Toys for Tots, was arrested when police found a crack pipe next to his Santa Claus costume.
Santa Roger, who has been Santa in the Phoenix area for at least five years, says hearing about these arrests upsets him.
"I personally think it's a good idea to have a background check," he said.
The 12 News I-Team has learned there is no law requiring Santa Claus to undergo a background check, but Santa Roger does it anyway.
"We're here to serve little kids. We love little kids and parents want to be safe. They don't want to have to worry about Santa Claus," said Santa Roger.
Santa Roger says he knows several of Santa's helpers and has good news for Valley parents.
"Most of the professional Santa Clauses in Phoenix that I know, and I probably know 45 or 50 of them, and every one of those has gone through this process [background check]," he explained.
Several businesses in the Phoenix area, like the outlet mall in Chandler and Illumination: Symphony of Light, hire their Santas through websites like Santa Claus and Company. A representative from that company tells 12 News background checks are required to get added to their database.
If you're a concerned parent, don't be afraid to call the venue where you're seeing Santa ahead of time and ask if he's undergone a background check. Phoenix police say trust your instincts. If something makes you uncomfortable, don't do it.