Cardboard cops slow speedsters

cop_standie.jpg(The Tennessean) He gets waves and cheerfully smiles. People elbow their friends and point as they drive by. On any given day, Sgt. Andy Miller may be the most popular cop running radar around Smyrna. The problem is, he’s not real — at least, the one many people see isn’t real. Earlier this month, the city commissioned a life-size, corrugated plastic cutout of Miller, posing with his radar gun, a menacing scowl on his face. They post the cutout in high-traffic areas, hoping that it will deter speeders. “It’s meant to get people to think about it and slow down. It’s actually worked,” said Miller, the head of Smyrna’s traffic enforcement division. The speed limit on pedestrian-heavy Front Street is 15 miles per hour, but drivers regularly drive between 25 and 60, Miller said.

Mystech: I suppose its preferably to a speed trap, but I don’t know if I could resist pranking Sgt. Miller. Perhaps a tutu and wig when no one was watching. 🙂

“We come over here on a regular basis and run radar, but we can’t be everywhere all the time,” Miller said. “With this, we can be.”

The cutout was actually the brainchild of Jim Gammon, the owner of a sign company on Front Street. Gammon approached the city to suggest it and donated the sign. It’s working so well that the city is having another cutout made this week.

“It’s iffy whether you can get across the intersection sometimes” because of speeding traffic, Gammon said.

“They could hit a child, or an old person.

“Any time they’ll see it, (motorists) immediately slow down. … The trick is to keep them guessing.”

The idea is one of several that local police departments use to control traffic on the cheap.

Gallatin police started stationing unmanned police cars alongside high-traffic streets in 2004, a tactic several local cities use.

The cars, mostly spares that weren’t part of the regular patrol fleet, did the trick to slow down speeders, police Lt. Kate Novitsky said.

The problem was they just weren’t realistic enough.

So the department started manning their dummy cars with dummy officers, mannequins dolled up to look like cops and propped up in the squad cars drivers’ seats.

“They have been very effective,” Novitsky said.

“It’s a cost-effective way to slow people down. It doesn’t require any manpower, other than someone to drive the car out there and park it.”

Cutout catches the eye

Miller said he’s heard a little criticism of the technique, especially given Smyrna’s past reputation as a speed trap city.

Wednesday, the cutout drew its share of points, stares and laughs from drivers passing by. Unfortunately, some motorists failed to slow down.

Miller and another officer were running radar behind the decoy and dished out several citations.

“I think it’s neat. If it helps, it’s great,” Smyrna resident Norma Stuteville said.

Stuteville and her son were driving down Front Street Wednesday when they caught their first glimpse of Miller’s cutout, or, as Stuteville called it, “the little cardboard cop.”

She admitted that seeing it made her pump her breaks.

“He kind of caught us by surprise,” she laughed. “It definitely caught our eye.”

You may also like...

Leave a Reply