Bunny-based crackdown: West Palm Beach police use bunny costume to enforce seat-belt law

— A man and a bunny were walking down the center median of Okeechobee Boulevard Wednesday morning when the bunny began flashing a sign at passing motorists: "Have a safe, hoppy holiday. Buckle up!"

Amused drivers smiled and waved at the duo. (One motorist even tried to give the man a $20, thinking he was homeless.)

But this was no joke. Both were West Palm Beach police officers out to enforce the state-sponsored "Click it or Ticket" campaign; signalling other officers stationed off Tamarind Avenue when motorists were not wearing their seat belts.

Wearing a seat belt "should be an involuntary response when you get in a vehicle," said Sgt. Matthew Bessette of the department's traffic division. Beginning around 8 a.m., officers cited 50 motorists in the first two hours alone.

Bessette, who came up with the idea of using the bunny costume and calling the one-day effort "Operation Hippity Hop," said it was the department's way of spicing up the educational enforcement campaign. "You never know where we're going to be or what we're going to look like," Bessette said.

That certainly rang true for Kendui Paicus, 30, of West Palm Beach. He said he saw the bunny, but didn't think much of it. Paicus was issued a $116 citation for not wearing his seat belt.

Tesheika Lee said she also saw the bunny but thought she was in the clear because she was wearing her seat belt under her arm. "I knew it was wrong, but it's just not comfortable," she said, before driving away and almost forgetting to slip the top band over her chest.

Before letting the 29-year-old West Palm Beach resident go with a verbal warning, Bessette made sure to explain the correct way to wear a seat belt.

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