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Decoy Patrols: Dummies Reducing Traffic Fatalities

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 49 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2001 Pages: 110-111
Grady Carrick
Date Published
April 2001
2 pages
This article provides an overview of the use of mannequins or cardboard cutouts of police officers in decoy patrol cars to deter speeding at dangerous traffic spots, and explains how to implement such a program and avoid potential pitfalls.
Drivers instinctively slow down and check their speed when they see a marked police cruiser. It is impossible, however, to provide enforcement visibility everywhere it is needed due to personnel limitations. Many jurisdictions extol their decoy patrols, but a program is only as good as the enforcement that accompanies it. If no enforcement is used, the police "dummy" becomes nothing more than another example of failed public policy. The public becomes familiar with the decoy and in time begins to ignore it. It is imperative that patrol vehicle decoy strategies be complemented with the use of actual enforcement. Creating uncertainty regarding whether or not the patrol officer is real or a decoy is crucial to a decoy program's success. In implementing a decoy program, the first step is identifying a problem location. Locations where motorists speed through a business district, on a rural roadway, or in a school zone are ideal for decoy use. Dangerous intersections where signal violations occur frequently are also good spots for decoys. Studies have demonstrated that decoy programs are effective in obtaining motorists' compliance with traffic laws in problem locations. Still, some argue that decoy patrols pose a danger, since they cause motorists to slow suddenly for no apparent reason. To address this risk, decoys should not be deployed in areas where their presence surprises an unsuspecting driver. Placing the vehicle in a highly visible location is required for the desired effect.