Seatbelt Sting by Happy Harry Homeless

A friend of mine is a police officer for the city of Maplewood and yesterday Rubén Rosario of the St. Paul Pioneer Press called him out. The attention grabbing headline was: Cops’ Seat-Belt Sting Did The Job. But Was It Right?

Turns out Pablo was pretending to be a beggar, or as Rubén would have it, Happy Harry Homeless. Rubén goes on to describe one of the victims of this sting operation, a sympathetic “recent college graduate,” Blake Elfstrom, whose girlfriend was in the passenger seat and not wearing her seatbelt. The ticket will cost her $108.

state-mandated $25 fine for a first-time offender, plus the $75 the law allows as a petty-misdemeanor surcharge fee — repeat after me: this is not a tax, it’s a fee — that goes into the state general fund. The remaining $8 — repeat again: it’s not a tax, it’s a fee — goes to fund law libraries.

So, it’s the state’s fault for this intrusive law, right? Halfway through the article, Rubén taps out:

Now don’t get me wrong. I buckle up. Always have. It’s plain common sense to me.

One recent study concluded 40 lives could be saved annually in Minnesota as a result of the new law. Another study concluded that medical bills of injured beltless motorists were 94 percent higher than belted folks injured in crashes. The study estimated $190 million in insurance costs would be saved in a decade if seat-belt compliance in the state increased to 94 percent.

So, Rubén would appear to be indignant with the police tactics, but supports the law they’re enforcing.

But, there is a happy ending. Because Paul Bartz is a great guy with a sense of humor, which apparently Rubén picks up on, and describes a different sign Paul was using: “Unemployed ice dancer: please help.” It’s unclear which sign generated the most money but in the end Paul cleared $93 for just 3.5 hours of work!

The total, including the value of a Cub Foods gift certificate, was $93. (Bartz) threw in another $7 to round it up to $100. The $100 was donated to the North St. Paul food shelf, where it will help feed those in need.


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