Cardboard Cops could help cut out speeding
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003
It is no secret that Largo police Chief Lester Aradi loves personal contact with residents -- one journalist described him as "relentlessly friendly" -- and that he insists his officers also reach out to people in the community.
But what's a people-loving police chief to do when he has a limited number of officers who can spread the love around?
Easy. Clone them.
Aradi is getting widespread publicity (not to mention some good-natured ribbing) for his new Cardboard Cops campaign launched last week. Aradi's idea was to photograph his officers, blow up the photographs to life size and position the cardboard cops around town in strategic areas. The first one, a copy of real-life officer Sgt. George Edmiston, was propped up in City Hall last week. Edmiston's double was holding a large blue sign that read: "Domestic Violence: Terrorism on Another Home Front."
These new additions to Largo's police force can only be seen, not heard, but that doesn't mean they can't be put to work. Aradi's idea is to have each cutout officer carry a placard that contains an important public safety message.
That is only Phase 1 of the campaign. In its second phase, Aradi envisions his new officers sitting on cardboard motorcycles, pointing cardboard radar guns at real passing cars. Positioned along a busy road, the fake cops would look a lot like the real thing and motorists might slow down, Aradi says.
Largo's slightly red-faced police officers can't seem to decide whether to be flattered or horrified by the prospect of running into their mirror images around town. But Aradi is enthusiastic about the program and the good it could do. Assuming that people eventually stop laughing, the program's future is limited only by the availability of funds. Aradi paid the $360 required to produce the first cutout but is asking businesses and other donors to kick in money to enlarge his cardboard force.
Believe it or not, Aradi is not the first to have this idea.
A search of the Web turns up stories that Denmark used cardboard cops in the 1980s. And in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a shortage of police officers last year led to cardboard cops being positioned near schools in hopes of fooling motorists into slowing down.
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