By way of example, Roatan’s answer to crime on the Jackson Road was to build a six foot by eight foot wooden shack and abandon it by the side of the road without even posting a ‘Police ‘sign on it. The shack will not last as there is bound to be some entrepreneurial construction crew in need of building materials that will disassemble and remove it. The cost of the wood, labor and transport was around $1,000.
Virtue signaling is all around us. The police shack on the Jackson Road is one such signal: “we care to spend money to show we care, but we really don’t.”
I have another idea about a signal: ”yes we do care about policing, but we have a limited budget.” We live in a virtual world with virtual currencies, virtual friends and virtual pets. Why can’t we have virtual police officers?
In Boston a cutout police officer reduced bicycle theft by 67%. Scottish police have been employing cut-out policemen to reduce speeding on the windy country roads with much success. I’ve seen a police cutout with a motorcycle and a pointed radar gun on Panama’s highways. My reaction was to slow down. I figured out they were cutouts, but I also thought there had to be some police presence, as they had to bring the cutouts and, at a minimum, take care of it. So I reduced my speed and drove more carefully.
Why can’t we have virtual police officers?
The life-size cardboard cutout of a police officer can be purchased for $49.66 on Ebay. This is less than buying uniforms, let alone a gun for a real Honduran police officer. In addition that living and breathing national police officer doesn’t speak English, doesn’t know the island, and doesn’t know who-is-who. The cutout fails at this as well, but is well cheaper.
Being a police officer in Honduras is not easy, in point for fact, its hard work. You need training, require a salary, and have to muster constant self-control not to be corrupted or bribed. It’s tough.
Another advantage to a cutout is the constant, professional, and serious demeanor of the cutout police officer. Most police I see on Roatan are looking at their phones, talking to each other, or looking in a random direction. The cutouts are much more consistent and serious looking. The cutout is always there: it is dependable, it’s weather resistant. It’s there rain or shine. It doesn’t take lunch breaks. The “faux” police officer will work until it fails.
Since there are around 200 live police officers on the island currently I think the right number of cutouts should also be 200. Each police officer would be responsible for their own cutout: make sure it moves location every day, doesn’t get damaged by rain or pesky children. Maybe each cutout could have individualized details like make-up, or a flower in the uniform. That would have the criminals constantly guessing: is it real or is it “faux?”
The public also could help out. Stores and individuals that can’t afford to hire a guard could place cutout police in strategic places. The cutout figures of Roatan police should slow down speeding drivers and make robbers think twice before acting. While California parking lots are patrolled by 5 foot tall robots, Roatan could at least have 5 foot card board cutouts.