Police departments stopping traffic to give gifts
GLENCOE, Ala. (AP) — A couple of local police departments are playing good cop this Christmas season — stopping vehicles and giving gifts instead of tickets, as long as the driver is not on any naughty lists.
Glencoe Police Chief Alan Kelly said officers will be out in full force on patrol through Monday. They will be looking for traffic violations, but they also will be armed with gift cards and will be randomly stopping vehicles to give them to motorists.
“What I want to do is build a stronger bond between the police department and the public,” Kelly said.
In Southside, police handed out gift cards in the rain Thursday, Chief Chris Jones said. Donations were raised privately and more than $500 in gift cards were given away.
Sgt. Jay Freeman said the idea came from Officer Ray Cumby and his family.
If Cumby’s experience giving away cards was any indicator, the Glencoe police have some intangible gifts in store.
Freeman said Cumby stopped one woman who told him she’d faced some financial problems, and she cried when he gave her the card, and thanked him for his service.
″(He) said him almost lost it and cried with her,” Freeman said. Cumby said it was a great experience to have a positive impact on people during this time of year.
Kelly’s anxious for his officers to have a positive impact — something they don’t often have the opportunity to do.
“It’s not often that we get to stop someone and give them good news,” he said. Most people come in contact with officers when they’ve been victim of a crime, someone’s committed a crime, they’re getting a ticket or have had a crash, or when police are notifying them of a tragedy.
He said officers sometimes get to help stranded motorists during a shift, but those occasions don’t come too often.
“I just felt during the holiday, we could not only have officers in full force out there to deter crimes,” Kelly said, but to give these gifts to the public, too.
The department called on local businesses and the chief they were very supportive, giving gift cards for everything from meals at local restaurants to oil changes.
“We’re still going to check people for warrants,” Kelly said, when any kind of stop is made, following the regular procedure for a traffic stop.
“I’d hate to find out we stopped someone on the 10 Most Wanted List and gave them a $10 gift card,” he said.
Officers have been patrolling heavily in Glencoe for the past few days, trying to combat the typical holiday spike in home and vehicle burglaries. Kelly said that’s something that happens everywhere, with criminals attracted by the possibility of gifts under the tree.
“I want the department to be viewed as approachable,” he said, so people will trust that they can bring information to the police when needed.
“We’re 70 percent more effective when we have a rapport with the public and there’s a two-way road of communication,” Kelly said. Positive contacts with the public can have a positive impact for law enforcement.
Kelly said the businesses that had donated so far included Jacks, The Shell Food Mart (with Crispy Crunchy Chicken gift cards), Ronnie Watkins Ford, Hungry Hut, Mi Casita, Tre Ragazzi’s, McDonald’s, Big Chief and Rice’s Car Wash. He said there may be other businesses donating before the effort ends Monday.
Donors to the Southside giveaway included H.M. Freeman Motors, Butler Electric, Autos Towing, Glam Salon, Broken Spoke Antiques, Old School Ink, Xtreme Auto Spa and Deorio’s Pizza.
Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com