State Trooper Sticker Flap in Connecticut

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State Trooper Sticker Flap in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Stickers bearing the face of a Connecticut state trooper will greet motorists at gasoline pumps statewide informing would-be thieves that driving off without paying for gas is now it's own crime. But Connecticut's police chiefs have taken issue with why the face on the sticker a trooper, when most towns are covered by local police.

"It leads the public to believe that the state police are the enforcement agency of this crime," said Milford Police Chief Thomas Flaherty, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, told The Hartford Courant. "More than 85 percent of the state's citizens live in towns with local police departments."

The law, which went into effect this week, makes stealing gas a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines. More likely than not, if a storeowner calls police to report such a crime, he is going to be met by a local police officer. State police would only investigate on highways and in small towns without police departments.

Flaherty said the sticker squabble is not a turf war. He said it's about morale. No police officer wants to show up to investigate a crime, surrounded by pictures of another agency's investigators, he said.

"All this kind of thing does is cause hard feelings," Flaherty said.

The industry group behind the campaign said it never expected this to be an issue. Officials just wanted a recognizable law enforcement image that might make drivers think twice about skipping out on a free tank of gas. They settled on the image of a trooper in his wide-brimmed Stetson.

"I think it would be something recognizable to the average person," said Christian Herb, associate director of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association (ICPA). "State troopers are one thing that's uniform through every municipality."

A state police spokesman, Sgt. J. Paul Vance, said the ICPA asked the state for a trooper image to put on its stickers. After seeing similar stickers from other states, Vance said, they agreed.

Flaherty said he spoke with top state police officials, who understood the concerns of the local police. Whether anything can change remains uncertain. More than 10,000 stickers have been printed and 8,000 have already been delivered. The estimated $2,000 cost for the stickers was shared between ICPA and the New England Convenience Store Association, the report said.