Cardboard Police Officer Curbs

Crime At MBTA Station

BOSTON – A cardboard cutout of a Transit Police officer is helping to curb crime in Boston.

The image of Officer David Silen is in place at the Alewife MBTA station, which is notorious for bike and other thefts.

Silen admits, at first he wasn’t sure if the idea would work.

Silen believes just the sight of an officer, real or not, is a good reminder not to commit a crime. Last month, just one bike was stolen at Alewife, compared to the five stolen in July of last year.  There are other benefits too.

“We’re not tied up taking stolen bike reports here so we are more available to respond to more serious crimes that require a police response,” Silen said.

The MBTA is looking to use the cardboard officer at other stations, and not just for bike thefts. They hope it might prevent fare evasion and smoking.


He may not be able to run, jump or even talk, but the cardboard version of a transit police officer in Boston is intimidating enough to make thieves think twice before trying to swipe a bike.

Authorities say poster boards of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer David Silen have successfully deterred bike thieves at one of the city’s public transportation stations known to be a hotbed for the crime.

The posters went up about one month ago, and the MTBA said bike thefts are down 67 percent as a result.

"At first glimpse, you want to say how silly it is that a cut-out of a cop would have an impact on crime,"Deputy Police Chief Robert Lenehan  . told Boston station WHDH

Lenehan said last month, just one bike was stolen from the Alewife T station with the stoic Silen resemblances overlooking the cycles. That’s down from between four or five that were stolen over the same period last year, he said.

"They told me it was going to be life size, it’s a little bit taller," joked Silen, a 10-year MBTA veteran.

Two Silen cutouts have been standing guard at the station’s bike cage and no one has been more surprised at how effective they have been than the officer himself.

"I had a conversation with a friend who’s a psychiatrist. She said to me, 'a split second before someone commits a crime, maybe they glance up and see it, maybe it reminds them, there are police, there are cameras in the bike cages, it reminds them that maybe someone will come looking for them,'" said Silen.

Commuters casually passing through the Alewife station told WHDH that the poster has caused them to do a double-take.

"If it stops one or two bikes from getting stolen, then I think it’s doing some good," Jeremiah Robertson told the station.