Holiday shoppers weren't the only ones who planned to spend Saturday at Fashion Island.
Two Newport Beach police officers — mounted on horseback — were also set to arrive during the hectic hunting of last-minute Christmas gifts. They will return once more on Monday.
This year marks the first time the horses, named Pistol and Levi, have helped with the seasonal watch, said Lt. Matthew Graham, one of the two officers certified for mounted patrol.
Graham and Officer Shawn Dugan joined the Orange County Regional Mounted Enforcement Unit in June. Newport Beach is one of six agencies involved, along with the Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Buena Park and Anaheim police departments and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
In Newport Beach, unlike the other departments, Graham and Dugan own their horses and pay for their maintenance, Graham said.
"There's a lot of advantages to the horses. The public really likes it," said Graham, who grew up riding horses but did not anticipate owning one again until he retired. "It becomes a little more personal than driving around in a patrol vehicle."
Part of the department's increased surveillance during the high-traffic period, the horses provide the officers with helpful elevation to keep an eye on parked cars and shoppers. The animals also serve as an important visual deterrent to potential thieves, Graham said.
After all, as NPBD-produced door hangers left at many Newport homes say: "'Tis the season for thievin'."
The horses made their first trip to Fashion Island for Black Friday on Nov. 29.