A visit from officer St. Nick

Naugatuck police detectives Paul Markette, dressed as Santa, and Amanda Devan talk with Naugatuck resident Andrew Karistinos after pulling him over on Church Street Christmas Eve and giving him a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck police detectives Paul Markette, dressed as Santa, and Amanda Devan talk with Naugatuck resident Andrew Karistinos after pulling him over on Church Street Christmas Eve and giving him a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Police officers were busy Christmas Eve morning pulling over as many people as they could downtown. But rather than hand out tickets, the officers were spreading holiday cheer in the form of gift cards to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Six officers in three cruisers patrolled downtown passing out the gift cards — $300 worth — to unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians.

The officers would pull over a car, and at first the scene would play out like any other traffic stop. That is until an officer dressed as Santa Claus approached the cars, gift card in hand.

The idea was the brainchild of detectives Paul Markette and Amanda Devan as a way to spread holiday cheer and interact with the community.

“We want to get out there,” Markette said. “Police officers don’t have a good rap all the time, especially nowadays, so we want to show that we care.”

The reaction from those pulled over was astonishment, the detectives said.

“People really like it. They are surprised when we pull them over. Then when we give them a gift card they are even more surprised,” Markette said.

Naugatuck resident Andrew Karistinos was driving on Church Street when Markette and Devan pulled him over.

“I was thinking ‘what did I do? I didn’t do anything,’” Karistinos said.

However, once he saw Markette dressed as jolly old St. Nick and got a gift card instead of a ticket, Karistinos began laughing.

“I was very surprised,” Karistinos said.