Officer dressed as homeless man catches drivers using phones

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cop poses as homeless man to catch texting drivers.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — A Maryland police officer went undercover and dressed as a homeless man to catch people who were using their phones while driving.Drivers making their way through morning traffic in Bethesda on Tuesday morning saw a man in jeans and a hoodie standing by the side of the road, holding a cardboard sign. Officers camouflaged as panhandlers stood along two Montgomery County roads, and signaled to uniformed cops further down the street when they noticed someone texting or even holding a phone while driving.

Despite the disguises, the police officers were actually very honest with drivers, WTOP News reported, and held signs that read, “I am not homeless. I am a Montgomery County police officer looking for cell phone texting violations.” According to the WUSA report, the texting and driving sting operation worked two Montgomery roads, and had up to six police officers who wrote tickets to drivers breaking the law. “It’s smart. Paul Starks, the chief spokesman for the police department, said the plain-clothes officer served a useful purpose, since it is difficult to spot some violations from a car, and drivers behave better when they see a uniformed officer watching them. “It’s our intent to make the road safer for everyone,” he said. I’m not disagreeing,” one unidentified driver who was ticketed admitted to WUSA. (RELATED: Here’s The Autistic Teen Police Tricked Into Buying Weed) “If you’re using your thumbs, texting, while driving down the road it’s totally distracting, because you have to look down to see what you’re typing,” Montgomery Police Sergeant Phillip Chapin told WTOP.

But others criticized the deployment as disruptive to drivers and offensive to homeless people. “It is very distracting (and scary) to have a homeless-looking person holding up a difficult to read sign approach your car while coming up to a red light. Perhaps just as distracting as the handheld phone usage you are trying to prevent,” Housley wrote. “The first time I noticed this tactic in use, about a month ago, I nearly hit the car in front of me as I rolled to a stop because the creepy homeless looking person was walking up to my car and I was only looking at him and not the car that had rolled to a stop in front of me.” Housley complained further that the traffic enforcement severely slowed down commuters, making his ordinary 20-minute drive twice as long. On the police department’s Facebook page, several commenters agreed with Housley: “So you caused a traffic jam during rush hour and then robbed the people who had to call in to work to say that they’ll be late?

I can’t imagine the tone-deaf nature of adopting something like this, and I think it’s disrespectful of people experiencing the condition of homelessness,” said Susie Sinclair-Smith, executive director of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless. “The fact that the police would use that as a guise — that’s a very serious social problem…. To me, there’s no dignity about it.” In all, police said, the effort resulted in 31 citations and 9 warnings for using a hand-held phone, four citations and four warnings for texting, 17 citations and 7 warnings for driving on the shoulder and a few more citations and warnings including driving without a license.

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