SOCIETY

Cardboard cops retired from Hong Kong's roads (they just weren't cut out for the job)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 5:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 8:59am

They were hailed as the crime fighters of the future - cardboard traffic cops who would be on duty tirelessly to keep a counterfeit eye on Hong Kong's errant motorists. But in the end, it seems they just weren't cut out for the job.

Two cardboard cut-out police officers created for HK$10,000 and put on duty near traffic black spots in the New Territories have been quietly retired after they were found to have had no impact on accident rates.

The replica traffic policemen - aluminium alloy and cardboard copies of two real officers Leung Wai and Sergeant Sit Ching-fung, each weighing 9kg - were unveiled with some fanfare in 2012 as a novel way to persuade motorists to cut their speed.

One of them holding a clipboard and the other holding a speed gun, they went on duty along the Tolo Highway in Tuen Mun and Fanling for what was initially a two-month trial.

If they had proved a success, more of the replica policemen would have been used across Hong Kong, police said at the time, although a taxi drivers' union warned that once motorists got used to the sight of bogus cops, they would ignore them.

The union suggested police put more real officers on duty instead relying on such a gimmick to tackle rising accident rates on the city's busy highways.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the project had been a flop. "Upon conclusion of the trial of the Cut-Out Policemen Project along the roadside of expressway and strategic road network, it was found that the project had no noticeable impact on the traffic accident rate, so it was discontinued," she said in an e-mail statement.

Rather than being deployed imaginatively for other duties within the force, the two cut-out policemen have been unceremoniously dumped into storage at the Tai Hing Operation Base where they have been gathering dust for more than a year.

Police in Hong Kong decided to try out the cut-out policemen after similar initiatives helped reduce accident rates on the mainland and in countries including Britain, where replica officers have been occasionally put on duty at traffic black spots.

The use of replica police officers to deter bad driving hasn't been successful everywhere it has been tried, however.

In the Czech Republic, cut-out figures of female traffic officers in miniskirts distracted motorists so much that accident rates actually increased where they were deployed.