Protection through paranoia catching on

By Kevin Wilson

Leave it to our state to provide a safer environment, social comedy and a view on human behavior all at the same time.
This is the story of Officer Timmy, who’s been helping keep the drivers of Albuquerque at a slower pace with only his presence.
You see, presence is all Timmy has. He’s a mannequin, placed in an Albuquerque Police Department patrol car and left in a construction zone where motorists speed but police sometimes don’t have the manpower to cover.
About halfway through the story, I laughed at the concept of drivers being fooled by plastic. I also laughed about it after I finished the story, but I also had some other thoughts.
My mind raced back to a short clip in Kevin Smith’s 1993 independent film, “Clerks.” While clerk Dante was sitting below the counter and talking with his girlfriend, customers were greeted by a sign. The sign read, “Please leave money on the counter. Take change when applicable. Be honest.”
The rationale was simple. Most customers were coming in to simply buy a newspaper or coffee and would drop off pocket change, so he left about $5 in various change amounts. He figured people wouldn’t steal the money because, “theoretically, (when) people see money on the counter and nobody around, they think they’re being watched.”
His girlfriend called it “honesty through paranoia.” It’s a method the Albuquerque police is using, even though I imagine they’re doing so begrudgingly.
Capt. Conrad Candeleria of the APD did say that Officer Timmy helped slow down drivers. So in at least one area of an officer’s job — to help create a safer environment for citizens — a mannequin has succeeded.
I’ll probably laugh about this concept for quite a while, since the APD plans to continuously move Officer Timmy around to the city’s trouble spots and keep drivers guessing.
But, in a way, it’s quite a statement on our respect for laws and the people who enforce them — that we only follow the law when we believe that we are being watched.
I’m not sure who to blame more. Is it a police department that feels the need to use trickery on the public it’s sworn to serve? Or is it the citizens that place more value on how fast they get from Point A to Point B (and their cell phone conversations in between) than the safety of the other people using the road?
In either case, it took a dummy to make us aware of that. Maybe I shouldn’t be laughing about it.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com