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Vernon News

Study finds cardboard cops effective at reducing speed

Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Coquitlam RCMP

A study into the effectiveness of cardboard cut-out police officers holding radar guns has found the officers do dramatically curb speeding when placed in the right location.

An academic study conducted by SFU School of Criminology assistant professor Dr. Rylan Simpson found that one cardboard cop dubbed "Constable Scarecrow" in Coquitlam had a "dramatic and immediate effect" in reducing speeding when installed on arterial roads. The study found the cut-out the most effective for the first few days with it gradually becoming less effective until traffic returned to normal.

The evidence could see the RCMP around the Interior ramp up the use of cardboard cut-outs.

Kelowna RCMP set up its very own cardboard cop in January 2019, dubbing the officer, Const. Warren Ning. However, days after Const. Ning's arrival on the scene, he was stolen from outside of A.S. Matheson Elementary School on Gordon Drive.

"Simply put, it is truly disappointing," Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said at the time.

However, Kelowna RCMP had back-up, printing more Const. Ning's and placing them around the city in an effort to reduce speeding.

The SFU study found "Constable Scarecrow" was not particularly effective on quiet, residential streets but worked well on arterial roads. The Coquitlam RCMP have been using him as part of a pilot project since 2018.

The Coquitlam RCMP announced, that because of his success — and the recent endorsement of the academic study — they would be extending his contract indefinitely. The idea was borrowed from an initiative used by police in the U.K.

At a cost of $360 per cut-out, Coquitlam RCMP said it was an easy decision to extend his contract. "He has still never demanded additional training, meal breaks, or vacation time," the release says.

To keep the public on their toes, Constable Scarecrow is often accompanied by a real-life RCMP officer.

"So while Constable Scarecrow has still never written a ticket, you are more likely than ever to get one if you assume that he is working alone," the release says.

The initiative follows several different tactics the RCMP has been using to catch drivers in the Interior.

RCMP Traffic Services in the South Okanagan recently started using a variety of disguises - one officer dressed as a construction worker - as well as officers hiding in elevated commercial vehicles to catch offenders. The RCMP reported the campaign was very successful.

In 2015 Vernon North Okanagan RCMP had officers pose as panhandlers holding cardboard signs at intersections, but actually looking for cell phone and seatbelt infractions. Again, the RCMP reported the campaign as being very successful.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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