If you have dreams of riding in a police car, Lake Placid Police Chief James Fansler has just the ticket, although it’s not one most of us would probably try. Just take something from a store without paying for it, and the Lake Placid Police Department will give you a ride in a police car — free of charge.
That’s the tongue-in-cheek joke now shared by many of the retailers in Lake Placid and Fansler’s department with the installation of new signs in the businesses. The blue, black and white signs proudly declare “Free Ride in a Police Car if you Shoplift — Courtesy of the Lake Placid Police Department.”
The brainchild of Chief Fansler, the program got its start when he saw a similar sign and thought the program would be good for Lake Placid.
“I had the signs made and paid for out of our donation funds which come from CPR-First Aid classes and individuals who donate throughout the year,” he explains. “These funds typically are used to purchase items that our department budget will not cover such as Automatic External Defibrillator, and other specialized equipment officers can use to deter and fight crime.”
There was a bit more to it than that. He made the observation that the number of juvenile related offenses has been reduced since STR8UP Youth Ministry began its programs and while he can’t statistically document the relationship, he feels STR8UP has helped to reduce those offenses.
In order to support that program, he decided to ask retailers who wanted signs to donate to STR8UP’s Thanksgiving Dinner for the youth and community. “Every store owner I met gladly gave to the cause”, Fansler explains. “There was no set amount to donate and there was no obligation to donate to receive the sign.”
So far, the signs have raised around $350 for the dinner.
One of the local business owners who installed a sign is Gini Shevick, who owns Lake Placid Embroidery and Chic Chick Boutique on North Main Avenue in Lake Placid. “I know we’ve had shoplifters. … I think the signs are a reminder that we are aware of the problem and I hope they’re a deterrent,” she recently explained.
The sign at Chic Chick is displayed in the front door of the business.
Fansler says while he doesn’t have numbers on shoplifting cases in the area, he proudly states that the majority of shoplifters are quickly apprehended and the merchandise is returned to the retailer. He’s happy to help area businesses, but is quick to point to the business community that graciously gave money to a good cause as the real hero.