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Lithuania Deploys Cardboard Cops

September 3, 2002

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VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) _ Lithuania this week launched a novel program to deal with a shortage of traffic police: It’s cut new ones out of cardboard and propped them up on the side of streets to scare motorists into slowing down.

About 300 of the cardboard cops have been placed at road crossings near 90 schools in Vilnius, the capital of this former Soviet Baltic republic, a spokeswoman for the municipality, Rasa Razgaitis, said Tuesday.

She said the program coincides with the start of school in the nation of 3.5 million people. The life-sized replicas, painted turquoise green of actual Lithuanian police uniforms, are expected to stay in service for several months.

It’s the first project of its kind in the former Soviet Baltic states, which include Latvia and Estonia.

Nearby Denmark tried something similar in the 1980s. But the program ran into trouble when many of the replicas of police sitting on motorcycles were stolen, apparently for souvenirs.

The some 35,000 litas ($10,000) of materials required to fashion the police impersonators were donated by Kappa Packaging Baltics, a leading producer of boxes in this Baltic Sea coastal country.

Razgaitis said anecdotal evidence suggests the sight of the replicas, first deployed Monday, has, as hoped, caused drivers to hit their breaks.

She said Vilnius has made improving traffic safety a high priority.

Lithuania registers among the highest road fatality rates in Europe, with over 700 people dying each year, or around 20 deaths per 100,000 residents. The average annual rate in European Union countries is under 10 per 100,000.

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