Can you say a cop is ‘undercover’ when they’re holding a sign announcing exactly who they are and what they’re doing? Maybe, if the sign is scrawled on cardboard, the officers are out of uniform, standing by an off-ramp, and everyone’s brain is conditioned to read people like that as homeless? The San Bernadino Police gave this a go, to dramatic results.

The goal of this sort-of-undercover sting was to bust texting drivers, seat-belt use-deniers, and other forms of distracted driving. The sting was remarkably successful, too — 50 vehicle stops, 33 cell phone violations, 15 seat belt violations, and the remaining cars impounded for license issues.

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The police officers dressed in what appear to be normal, casual summer wear — the sort of thing you might wear to mow a lawn or attend a BBQ at somebody’s house that you gave up trying to impress decades ago, and carried signs that read

I am NOT homeless

SB police looking for seatbelt/cell phone violations

Which is, pretty much, about as accurate a description as you could ask for. We’re all so conditioned to reading the image of a person standing at an offramp holding cardboard as a homeless panhandler, that it seems nobody actually bothered to read the sign. Well, maybe some people did. I’m not entirely sure I would have.

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It should be noted that, as far as police sting operations go, this one appears to be very-budget-friendly, especially if they got some off-brand markers and didn’t spring for one of those swanky Sharpies, like some kind of goddamn Rockefeller.

(Thanks, Arpad!)

Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.

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