Even when a Santa – who has cleared criminal checks – can be found in his house, the setup does not necessarily inspire misty-eyed nostalgia. At the St. Elli Shopping Center in Llanelli, Wales, Santa’s lap is off limits; children now sit on a bench next to him, a move aimed at appeasing jittery parents, corporations and Santa himself.
But that’s not all. The frosted glass that decorated the house last year was scraped off to provide better sight lines so a newly installed camera can record Santa’s every move. ‘It’s peace of mind for the parents and for Santa,’ said Gilmore Jones, the manager of St. Elli Shopping Center. ‘Things happen. We didn’t mean to be drastic, nothing of the sort.’
Santa’s house is still popular, and the children do not mind the camera at all, he said. ‘They think it’s a cracking idea,’ Mr. Jones said. On second thought, he added, wistfully, ‘People have said it’s sad, but they can understand why it’s done.’
Up north in Scotland, Santa has confronted bigger problems. Every year for decades Santa Claus has ridden down every single street in Clackmannanshire, collecting money for charity. Two years ago, though, he and his elves were set upon by an expletive-shouting gang of 40 teenage thugs who hurled stones, some as big as potatoes.
’We had to kill the lights and music and speed out of the area,’ Douglas Richmond, one of the elves, told the BBC. ‘We had to get away as fast as we could. Someone could have had an eye out.’
So spooked was Santa that last year’s event was canceled. This year Santa is staying put at one location in each village of Clackmannanshire while an unmarked police car is parked conspicuously nearby. The charity collection, sponsored by the social club the Round Table, has been sidelined.”