'Homeless' sting nabs drivers

Friday, May 23, 2003

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Police went undercover as homeless people in tattered clothes to catch drivers running red lights.

The undercover officers watched for lawbreakers, then radioed ahead to other officers, who pulled the motorists over and gave them tickets.

Homeless advocates called Operation Vagrant, a sting involving Kissimmee police and the Osceola County sheriff's office, silly and offensive.

During the operation Wednesday, officers wore fake teeth and tattered clothing, and pushed shopping carts along the streets. They also carried small cardboard signs reading: "Sheriff's traffic sting in progress. Buckle up."

In all, 171 drivers were caught. Most were accused of running a red light, an $83 violation.

"It's kind of appalling," said Marilyn Gordon, executive director of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida. "I wonder if it will be a consciousness-raising exercise for the law enforcement officers."

Sheriff's bureau chief Jerry Geier said: "Our ultimate goal is to make an impact. The last thing we're trying to do is disrespect anybody."

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