MORGAN HILL, Calif. (AP) _ Criminals take note: Police here will soon have some new equipment in their arsenal - 50 cuddly teddy bears to help calm children in trouble and maybe even soften up some hard-core crooks.
’I don’t particularly care for guns,″ Mayor Lorraine Barke said Wednesday. ″I can see the bear as a very positive piece of equipment.″
At her urging, the City Council gave preliminary approval earlier this week to acquiring 50 bears through donations, one for each city patrol car and a bunch extra to replace those that are given away.
Ms. Barke has tentatively dubbed the urban ursa ″Officer Teddy,″ but says a contest will give Morgan Hill’s 20,000 residents a chance to choose another name.
Police Lt. Leonard Long, whose bear-crazy wife, Sharon, proposed the idea to the mayor, said the stuffed toys will soothe children in trouble.
″We’re looking at any kind of traumatic situation that a child might be involved in,″ said Long. ″A prime example might be a child involved in a traffic accident or a child removed from his home or her home, which happens frequently - any kind of child abuse.
″It’s scary for a youngster to be confronted by a police officer, so this would be something like an icebreaker,″ said Long, who noted officers also plan to carry coloring books and crayons.
The mayor, who likes to wear a bear T-shirt while working at her plant nursery, said she thinks police might also give the stuffed animals to some of their tougher gronw-up customers to soften them up.
″If it works, why not? We’re all kids at heart,″ said Long.
In Boulder, Colo., police use the bears exclusively for children. Community services Officer Jim Hendry says officers have been carrying the cuddly creatures for about four months.
″The day before yesterday, they worked great on some lost Cambodian children,″ he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. ″It’s great to watch them get their hand on something to help them relax.″
Hendry says he’s not sure the bears are cute enough to work their magic on real criminals, ″but I’d say there’s a good chance.″