Next time you're pulled over by a one of Toledo's men or women in blue, think of that uniformed patrol officer as Santa's helper.
Over the next two weeks, Toledo police will issue waivers instead of tickets for minor moving violations - with the understanding that the offender will go out and buy a toy for a needy child.
The "Trade a Ticket for a Toy" program is the city's way of helping the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and the Salvation Army help children have a happy holiday, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Police Chief Mike Navarre announced yesterday.
Chief Navarre said the waivers would not be issued for serious traffic violations. He said officers would have discretion whether to issue a ticket, a warning, or a "toy waiver."
And he said that since the waivers would replace what is normally a warning, the impact on city revenues should be minimal. He said the average fine and court costs for a minor moving violation is $130.
The waivers, which can't be legally enforced, invite the offending motorist to purchase a new, unwrapped toy and drop it off at any Family Dollar, Babies "R" Us, or Toys "R" Us stores no later than Dec. 24. More information is available at www.toysfortots.org.
Chief Navarre said the idea came from Sansom Park, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth.
The mayor said the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are experiencing a $150,000 shortfall.
"It's a great way for people to understand there's a shortfall this year," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
In his memo to officers, Chief Navarre said, "you have the opportunity to put a little magic under the tree for a needy tot and at the same time take the sting out of a routine holiday traffic stop."
Maj. Clyde Jones, coordinator of the Salvation Army for Northwest Ohio, said donations are lower than past years, while the need for help in providing food, shelter, clothing, and a holiday gift for children has increased dramatically.
Major Jones said 4,000 children have been prescreened to receive toys, along with food and coats for their families, at the Erie Street Market on Tuesday. The Marines will distribute toys at that event. He stressed that the families who qualify have already been notified and it is not an open event.
"Toys for Tots is tens of thousands of dollars behind in what it needs to provide toys for all the kids," Major Jones said.
- Tom Troy