Fake Transit Cop Spooks Bike Thieves

The life-size cutout has helped curb crime at a T stop in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Here’s a novel approach to law enforcement. Unable to pay more officers to patrol its transit stops, the Boston area’s debt-laden transit authority has resorted instead to cardboard replicas of police officers to help deter crime.

Since it installed two, life-sized cutouts of 10-year veteran Officer David Silen earlier this summer, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has curbed bike thefts at one station by 67% compared to last year, according to WHDH.

Officials have also outfitted the Alewife T stop in Cambridge — which is known for theft — with cameras, but Silen’s looming presence near the bike racks may be the main deterrent. Deputy Police Chief Robert Lenehan told WHDH just one bike was taken from the station last month when the posters went up, down from between four or five that were stolen last year during the same period.

“I had a conversation with a friend who’s a psychiatrist. She said to me, ‘a split second before someone commits a crime, maybe they glance up and see it, maybe it reminds them, there are police, there are cameras in the bike cages, it reminds them that maybe someone will come looking for them,’” Officer Silen told the local TV station.

Cardboard cops are on the rise. In June authorities in southeast England’s Berkshire county stationed cutouts of policemen in stores to curb shoplifting, according to the BBC. Similar cardboard artifices have successfully been deployed in other parts of North America, India and Thailand — forcing residents to think twice before breaking the law.

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