A scruffy looking man — hoodie up, clutching a tattered sign scrawled on a scrap of cardboard — shuffled up to a car at a busy intersection in this city west of Toronto. Drivers instinctively looked away.
But this sign’s wording was different from the usual begging appeal: “My name is Constable Mike Cairns. If you are reading this sign you are about to get a cell phone ticket.”
Witness the latest police tactic in the crackdown on distracted drivers.
Across Canada over the past several weeks, police officers have been dressing as panhandlers and clutching cardboard signs to mimic the curbside come-ons in order to get close enough to see drivers using handheld phones while driving.
In a growing list of cities, the unusual undercover tactic is snagging motorists who are texting, dialling, emailing or holding cell phones.
I think it’s quite clever of them, and I hope it discourages texting while driving.
Predictably, those who consider themselves advocates for real homeless people don’t like it:
Anti-poverty activists say it damages the already strangled reception of beggars from motorists and diminishes their daily take.
“We don’t want to give panhandlers a bad name by people thinking that they’re cops,” said John Clarke, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
“They are displacing people who are trying to survive by panhandling. The level of social cutbacks is such that, for panhandlers, there are no survival margins at all. And from a general decency point of view, it is a sneaky and unsavoury tactic.”
I find that remark hilarious, “We don’t want to give panhandlers a bad name by people thinking that they’re cops.” LOL! Because panhandlers don’t otherwise have a bad name, doncha know…