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Cardboard cop fighting bike theft in Boston

For Boston's MBTA a simple life-size poster of a police officer has helped dramatically decrease bike thefts at a train station. WHDH's Kim Khazei reports.

He may not be able to run, jump or even talk, but the cardboard version of a transit police officer in Boston is intimidating enough to make thieves think twice before trying to swipe a bike.

Authorities say poster boards of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer David Silen have successfully deterred bike thieves at one of the city’s public transportation stations known to be a hotbed for the crime.

The posters went up about one month ago, and the MTBA said bike thefts are down 67 percent as a result.

"At first glimpse, you want to say how silly it is that a cut-out of a cop would have an impact on crime," Deputy Police Chief Robert Lenehan told Boston station WHDH.


Lenehan said last month, just one bike was stolen from the Alewife T station with the stoic Silen resemblances overlooking the cycles. That’s down from between four or five that were stolen over the same period last year, he said.

"They told me it was going to be life size, it’s a little bit taller," joked Silen, a 10-year MBTA veteran.

Two Silen cutouts have been standing guard at the station’s bike cage and no one has been more surprised at how effective they have been than the officer himself.

"I had a conversation with a friend who’s a psychiatrist. She said to me, 'a split second before someone commits a crime, maybe they glance up and see it, maybe it reminds them, there are police, there are cameras in the bike cages, it reminds them that maybe someone will come looking for them,'" said Silen.

Commuters casually passing through the Alewife station told WHDH that the poster has caused them to do a double-take.

"If it stops one or two bikes from getting stolen, then I think it’s doing some good," Jeremiah Robertson told the station.