The Police Department's new mannequin will sit in a patrol car on the west side as a decoy to try to deter speeding.
BY STAN FINGER
The Wichita Eagle
Officer Dolly is on duty.
Wichita police on Wednesday unveiled a uniformed mannequin whose job will be to slow down speeders on the west side.
When a driver sees a patrol car, "you don't know if it's a real police officer or it's a decoy," said Capt. Joe Dessenberger, Patrol West commander.
More than 40 percent of the 36 traffic fatalities worked by the Wichita police in 2006 were in the western quadrant of the city.
Accordingly, police are planning a series of west-side traffic initiatives. The mannequin, informally dubbed "Dolly," is the first, police say.
Dolly will be seen in high-traffic areas such as West Kellogg, West 21st Street and Maize Road.
After she's been at a particular location for a few days, Dessenberger said, real officers will be stationed in her place.
Studies have shown that having an empty patrol car can have a significant impact on speeders for a while, Dessenberger said.
A study published in the July 2000 Journal of Trauma, for example, showed that the number of speeders on a road with a history of speed-related collisions dropped from 72 percent of traffic when no patrol car was present to 27 percent when an empty patrol car was parked there.
Speeding became more frequent once drivers in the study realized no officer was present, so Wichita will keep Dolly on the move.
"The objective is to get people to obey the speed limit," Dessenberger said.
It's also a way to stretch the department's limited resources. If the mannequin proves effective, he said, the Police Department may use more of them.
More and more police departments around the country are using mannequins in traffic enforcement, Dessenberger said.
Dolly is a wheelchair mannequin donated by Kohl's. She'll be using an old patrol car that would otherwise be sold and radar equipment that is old and not in service.
"She's cheaper than a real officer," Dessenberger joked.
If she does her job well, he said, she'll likely be seen in other parts of the city -- and the department may deploy more mannequins around town.
It's the first of a number of initiatives police plan in an attempt to reduce traffic fatalities in the city. The 36 deaths in traffic accidents worked by police represented a 50 percent increase over the year before.
Police officials have said they are convinced increased traffic enforcement will translate into fewer traffic accidents -- and fewer deaths.