12/6/2005Washington State Troopers Dress Like Panhandlers to Give Tickets
Washington State Police are disguising themselves like homeless panhandlers in order to issue expensive seat belt tickets.
Washington State Police are celebrating the Christmas season by dressing up like the homeless to trap motorists who are not wearing a seat belt. The trick works so well that a trooper in Pierce County issued tickets at the rate of $760 an hour on Saturday.
The officer, who was not in uniform, wore a cardboard sign around his neck reading, "Happy Holidays, Buckle Up." Charitable drivers passing by would offer him money to buy food. The officer refused this money and instead used a radio to summon a uniformed trooper to pull over the driver to write a $101 citation.
The panhandler sting program is a result of legislative approval of a "primary seat belt law" in 2002 that allows police to pull over motorists who have done nothing wrong to issue a seat belt ticket. Previously a seat belt ticket could only be given to motorists pulled over for a more serious offense. A Vancouver officer who came up with the homeless trap was even able to issue a $1050 littering ticket to a man who had thrown a soda can at him, not realizing he was a police officer in disguise.