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North Texas City Will Take Toys In Lieu Of Ticket Fines

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PANTEGO (CBS 11 NEWS) - Police officers in one North Texas town are waiving minor traffic citations in the hope that drivers will donate to charity this season.

Called the Pantego Cops for Kids program, from mid-November through mid-December, officers are handing out fliers to the people they pull over, and asking if the drivers would consider dropping off an unwrapped toy at the department headquarters.

Police will deliver the gifts to Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth in time for Christmas.

Assistant Chief Barry Reeves came up with the idea. This is the third year of a growing tradition. "Some folks are just giving because it's better than getting a ticket. Some see the signs behind it, and the reasons behind it," he said.

Last year, the department collected three patrol SUVs full of toys.

Reeves explained, "We don't do it for the publicity, but it's nice to let other people know that we're doing things other than just writing tickets and putting people in jail."

Pantego occupies less than two square miles next to Arlington in Tarrant County. The population is just around 2,400, but close to 85,000 commute through the town every day.

The police department's ten patrol officers write around 500 citations a month, but that number is cut in half during the toy drive.

"I know that everybody likes getting cut a break. I don't like being the one issuing a ticket to people. It feels good that I'm not cutting into their bank account and their Christmas spending for their kids or their family. They can buy something relatively inexpensive, and the kids at the hospital will think it's the greatest thing because they're not home for Christmas," said Officer Stephen Meinke.

Patrolling a school zone on Wednesday, Officer Meinke stopped several drivers for violations. All were happy to hear that they'd receive warnings, and said they planned to donate a toy.

"I think it's great. I'm happy with it. [I may] donate two!" said Ed Barry.

The warnings in place of citations are being issued for non-hazardous violations like (minor) speeding, expired inspections, running stop signs, all at the officer's discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Serious offenders who are pulled over are not let off the hook by the toy drive.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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