The transit police covering the beat at the Alewife MBTA subway and bus station in Cambridge, Massachusetts placed a cardboard cutout of a police officer in the bicycle cage to try to discourage bike theft.
Police say that the cardboard cutout, has assisted the police in significantly decreasing crime, along with a new video camera and a new lock.
The cops say that bike thefts have decreased by 67 percent but there is no way to tease out how much influence the fake cop has had upon would-be-thieves.
A new lock, assuming there was either previously no lock or there is now a new, improved lock, might explain why there is less crime.
What about the cameras? Someone contemplating a crime might spot the camera, which also might not have previously been in place, and reconsider stealing a bike.
If the fake cop is having an influence, it might be that the prospective thieves are startled by what appears to be a cop. They don’t stick around to see if it is a real cop.
If a simple cardboard cutout actually reduces crime, it’s really quite an ingenious idea that could save police departments a great deal of money. It’s an idea that should be further investigated by researchers.
Check out officer David Silen.