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Police give motorists chance to help make holidays happy

December 18, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize people who make the holidays better for others.

A speeding ticket is pretty much an all-around bad experience, but it was a different story this holiday season in Ranson.

If a motorist was willing to help spread a little Christmas cheer, the ticket would vanish and the holidays were made a little more special for a needy child.

Through the program, Slow Down for the Holidays, Ranson Police Department officers offered motorists the chance to have their speeding tickets dismissed if they bought a toy with a value of at least $25 for a child.


Cpl. Todd D. Lutman Sr., who suggested the idea, said he was heartened by the community's response.

At least 50 motorists agreed to participate, and many of the toys cost more than $25, Lutman said.

At the police station on 13th Avenue, the presents were stacked under a Christmas tree in the lobby.

There were dolls, bikes, a DVD player, a compact disc player, clothes, train sets and remote-controlled cars. More toys were in a big cardboard box in a hallway.

"People just loved it," Capt. Mickey Ballenger said.

Slow Down for the Holidays began Nov. 22 and lasted for three weeks, Lutman said.

The officer issuing a ticket could decide whether to make the offer to the motorist, Lutman said.

Motorists participating in Slow Down for the Holidays were told that the ticket would be dismissed if the driver brought a new toy to the police department and showed a receipt as proof of the purchase, Lutman said.

At least 70 toys were collected through the effort and Ranson officers plan to distribute the toys to needy kids in Ranson on Tuesday and Christmas Eve, Lutman and Ballenger said.

The police department plans to work with officials at Ranson Elementary School to identify needy children, Lutman said.

If more than one child is at the home when police officers arrive to deliver a toy, toys will be given to the other children as well, Lutman said.

"Christmas is all about the kids. And unfortunately, there are a lot of kids that can't get by," Lutman said.

Lutman said he brought up the idea for Slow Down for the Holidays during a staff meeting in November. Police Chief William Roper liked the idea and the Ranson City Council approved it, Lutman said.

Lutman praised the council members for their support, especially considering the town was willing to give up some revenue from fines for the three-week period. Speeding tickets can cost up to $200, Lutman said.

"There's not a lot of agencies that are going to do that," said Lutman, who has worked for the department for six years.

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