LIFESTYLE

A little holiday cheer: Police officers give out Christmas presents instead of traffic tickets

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Santa Claus came early for some unsuspecting drivers after a police department in northern Michigan helped bring a little holiday cheer during traffic stops.

Officers of the Lowell, Michigan police department started pulling over many residents in their downtown for minor infractions like tinted windows, a nonworking headlight or for driving through a yellow light, but instead of issuing tickets they asked them about their Christmas shopping list.

What they didn’t know was that the officer had a microphone on and a crew was down the road at a local department store waiting to buy the things they mentioned. 

The campaign, which took place a few weeks ago, was all recorded and uploaded online recently.

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Salvador Galeno, one of the motorists, told the local NBC affiliate, Wood TV, that he was bemused as to why he was stopped.

“I was thinking, ‘I was not driving over the speed limit. What could it be?” he recalled.

Caught in video, he seemed even more confused with the officer’s questioning.

“The Xbox One, that’s what your kids want? That’s the go-to present for your kids?” the officer asked him, as seen on the video.

“Yeah, I told them they are not going to have it,” Galeno replied.

The crew listening in rushed to get the game console, while Galeno waited for the officer to write the supposed ticket.

“After 10, 15 minutes with my paperwork, he got back with a box wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper,” Galeno said.

“Are you serious?” he was heard saying on the tape. “Oh my God! My kids are going to love this!”

He told Wood TV that the gift will make Christmas very special at home. He said that while both he and his wife work, money is tight, so the Xbox One was out of the question until now.

“I’ve got bigger things to spend money on than Xbox, you know what I mean?” Christine Galeno told the NBC affiliate. “$400 is a lot of money these days.”

According to the New York Daily News, the whole project was done in conjunction with Up TV’s Uplift Someone campaign, which paid for all the gifts. Rob Bliss, an online video producer whose family lives near Grand Rapids, pitched the idea to the police department.

Over two days, the campaign spent between $8,000 and $10,000 on a variety of presents that ranged from Legos, TVs and even a hatchet for an outdoorsy 6-year-old, Bliss told the Daily News.

While the people in the video seemed patient enough to wait for their surprise gift, Bliss said it was not the case for everyone.

Bliss said one person missed out on the chance to receive new laptops for his kids.

According to the Daily News, Lowell police Chief Steven Bukala told The News the stops were violations that normally would not be enforced, but that speeders and reckless drivers were still ticketed.

“I did not want to reward bad behavior,” he said, adding that the police officers also checked the driver’s license and registration, like in any other traffic stop.

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