‘Free beer’ helps spread anti-crime message in St. Louis
Brightly colored posters inside bus shelters scream a message to both pedestrians and traffic along busy city streets just south of Highway 44 in St. Louis. “Free Beer” proclaims one poster, while another reads, “Free Food,” and a third touts “Free Smokes.”
Surprisingly, the offers of free commodities are not originating from a nearby market promoting new products. Instead, the messages on each poster are sponsored by the St. Louis Police Department’s 3rd District, as part of a campaign to reduce a recent rise in car break-ins.
Beneath the offer of free beer, food or cigarettes, each poster includes two simple lines of type reading, “That’s what a thief sees when you leave stuff in your car.”
The anti-crime message is resonating with residents and visitors to the area’s restaurants, bars and clubs.
“We needed a way to stop people in their tracks and make them think, without scaring them away,” said Captain Stephen Hobbs of the St. Louis Police Department’s 3rd District.
“We couldn’t appeal to the people committing the crimes,” Hobbs added, “so we decided to reach out to car owners, who all too often leave things in their cars–anything from loose change to CDs to cell phones to purses–to make them think about what those items mean to a thief.”
The posters, created by St. Louis-based advertising agency Left Field Creative, take a unique approach to modifying behavior.
“People don’t want to be told what to do,” said Left Field’s Terri Lacey, creator of the campaign. “If you tell someone not to do something, he [or she] will usually do just the opposite. To change behavior, it’s essential to get people to stop and think about the big picture. Leaving loose change on your car’s console may not seem like much to you, but it means a free beer to someone who would break into a car, particularly when you can by a ‘tall boy’ for around a dollar at any convenience store. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
The campaign has received donations from the community to help defray costs of designing and printing the posters.
“Our business association, the 3rd District Police Partnership (known as 3D), saw an opportunity to help us prevent crime and make a difference,” said 3rd District Public Affairs Officer Don Re. “While a good deal of the work for this campaign has been donated, 3D is covering any additional costs. It’s a perfect example of how the police department and the business community can work together.”
Message catches on
In addition to adorning bus shelters, smaller window-sized posters are being distributed in the Police Department’s 3rd District.
Alderman Phyllis Young already has purchased small signs, complete with the same poster-sized messages, to place on restaurant tables in her ward.
“This is simply a great way to get the message across,” Young said. “Car break-ins happen everywhere in the city and county. We just saw this as an opportunity to give people a reminder to keep things in their cars out of sight and locked away. If initial reactions are any indication, the campaign looks to be a huge success.”
“Everyone who sees these ads does a bit of a double-take, then laughs,” Hobbs added. “But they remember the message. That’s the important part. Great ideas can make people change the way they think and act, and this is a great idea. It’s going to make a big difference in our district. This is the kind of program every police department in the country could use. I’m just happy we’re the ones who get to use it first.”
Left Field Creative plans to license the campaign to police departments and municipalities across the country for “a very modest rate, to help us cover costs,” according to agency representative Bill Shelton.
For additional information, contact Left Field Creative by phone: 314-773-1300; send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the company’s Web site: http://www.leftfieldcreative.com/.