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Departments : It's a Jungle Out There

The Elite Gum Squad

Who knew police work included scraping gum and hiking up live volcanoes?

February 01, 2003  |  by Commander Gilmore

The Elite Gum Squad

Think your assignment sucks? Just be thankful you're not one of the Chinese cops newly assigned to patrol Tianenmen Square in Beijing for those most dangerous of enemies of the people: the dreaded gum-spitters.

After a government report concluded that decadent Western-influenced citizens had deposited approximately 600,000 wads of discarded gum in the Square, 1,000 workers were assigned to an on-their-knees gum-scraping labor detail. That little chore took 18 days. Then the sorta-elite Gum Squad was formed and swung into action. The country's authorities have not released information on the punishment to be doled out to gum-spitting evil-doers, but if you don't wanna find out, we advise swallowing your Juicy Fruit when in the neighborhood.

Get Fit or Take a Hike

Disgusted with his roly-poly cops and their tendency to resemble doughnuts in uniform, the Chief of Police in Manila has come up with a kinda novel physical fitness program. He has ordered all officers with waists over 34 inches to climb Mount Pinatubo once a month until their bellies deflate.

The Chief told reporters that, sure, the officers would get to carry snacks with them-it's a long, hard climb-but "this is certainly not a picnic." No kidding. And he didn't have to remind his porky patrolmen and dumpling detectives of another little fact about Mount Pinatubo: It's a live volcano, prone to eruptions without warning.  We think the message is clear: "Lay off the fries, or maybe you get fried."

Cardboard Cops

If you've got a serious traffic problem and you don't have enough traffic cops, then see what you've got a lot of and try to work something out. That's what officials in Lithuania were faced with, and came up with a solution that seems to be working.

They had a lot of surplus cardboard and a bunch of turquoise-green paint-the same color as Lithuanian traffic-cop uniforms. So they deployed 300 life-size cardboard cops to "patrol" areas around school crosswalks and high-accident street intersections in the capital city of Vilnius.

Initial reports indicate folks are seeing those turquoise uniforms and hitting the brakes, and average speeds are way down. Of course, there're a couple of real cops sprinkled among the cardboard cowboys, to put some sting in the bite.

A similar experiment in Denmark in the '80s was abandoned when people started stealing the cardboard cops and using them for home decoration, with the life-size "traffic cop on motorcycle" being the favorite souvenir. In Vilnius, there's been no such theft problem so far.

Officials think that's a residual effect of the bad old days under Soviet rule, when the KGB would sometimes leave things of value out for people to steal so they could be arrested and shipped off to the gulags. Apparently, folks in Vilnius don't think a motorcop memento is worth a diet of cooked cabbage at a labor camp in Siberia.

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