It looks like the stealthly Halton Regional Police force is at it again.
Three years ago you’ll remember they disguised their police cars as taxis in an attempt to gain the upper hand on aggressive drivers throughout the region. This week, officers were disguised as homeless people stationed on medians in Burlington — holding bogus cardboard signs, no less — trying to get a closer look for distracted drivers talking, texting, emailing or surfing on their smartphones.
Oh, and we should clarify: the operation is actually called ‘Disconnect’, but ‘Hobo-cop’ sounds much more intriguing, no?
From the Hamilton Spectator:
Distracted drivers, beware.
Halton regional police have launched a four-day blitz in Burlington to catch people using their cellphones while driving. And they’re even going undercover, disguising themselves as roadside beggars – complete with tattered cardboard signs – in an effort to get close enough to catch offenders.
Project Disconnect is an effort to improve road safety by stopping people who are talking, dialling, texting or emailing using handheld phone devices and other communication and entertainment devices.
Halton Regonal Police spokesman Sgt. Dave Cross confirmed officers were conducting the blitz in “plain clothes” but refused to discuss their strategies, noting they are using various strategies to educate the public on texting while driving.
The HoboCops trick was most recently employed by the Ottawa Police during a similar blitz a couple of weeks ago. Other police forces have also imitated squeegee kids, beggars and, in memorable moments in Chilliwak and in West Palm Beach – The Easter Bunny – in order to get close enought to motorists to catch them in violation of seat belt or cell phone laws.
The annual blitz started Monday and will end Thursday.
Last year, police issued 223 provincial offence notices, Cross said, adding he did not have the number of offences for the current project yet.
“We’re hoping it improves road safety overall and driver attentiveness through both education and enforcement,” he said.
We have to admit getting a bit of a kick out of the homemade cardboard signs, with prose such as “If you can read this, you just got a ticket” substituting the usual “Can you spare some change?” or similar.
And so, is this simply some good, creative, out-of-the-box thinking on the part of police, looking to solve the specific issue of distracted driving or is this another strategy to employ a quick cash grab while, ironically, distracting drivers in the process?
What say you?