Cairo cops hand out holiday tickets — lottery tickets
Drivers on Santa’s good list might get a pleasant surprise in the southernmost Illinois city
By Ted Cox
Motorists on Santa’s list of good drivers might get a pleasant surprise in Cairo.
The city’s Police Department is handing out tickets to good drivers — lottery tickets, that is.
Cairo cops who spot motorists and pedestrians displaying good rules of the road are apt to pull them over — and present them the chance to win money in the state lottery with a ticket of a different sort than they usually give out.
“I’m going to have to give you a ticket, but it’s going to be a different kind of ticket,” said one Cairo police officer to a stunned driver.
The Instant Illinois Lottery scratch tickets were bought with funds contributed by Cairo police officers and other city employees for distribution over the week before Christmas, through Friday.
Mayor Tyrone Coleman credited Police Chief Leonard Harris, a Cairo product who recently returned to town after retiring from the El Paso, Texas, department, where he put in more than 20 years.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Coleman said. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of something like that.”
Harris announced the program earlier this month in what he called “an attempt to promote positive police and citizen interactions as well as improve upon police and community relationships.”
“We thought about the lottery tickets because most times we stop people, we give them a ticket. It was just a play on the word,” Harris said Friday.
“Most people of course were shocked,” he added, but after that initial surprise the ticket giveaway has been almost uniformly well-received.
According to Coleman, officers and other employees raised several hundred dollars to buy the tickets for distribution.
“It helps to pull people’s spirits up,” Coleman said. “It’s a good idea really around Christmastime to boost the morale of the people.”
“I haven’t heard about any big winners yet,” Harris said, “but we’ve still got a day to run it.”
Cairo is a once-thriving river town at the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi at the southern tip of Illinois. Although it’s suffered through hard times the last few decades, Coleman has said he sees signs of a revival, calling Cairo “probably one of the friendliest places in these whole United States. It’s just a really friendly community.”