Getting to Lied Middle School in Las Vegas on Friday morning was like driving into a hornet’s nest.
That’s because Clark County School District police were swarming around a few blocks outside the school, picking off traffic offenders left and right. As I rolled up about 40 minutes before the bell rang, two motorists got pulled over.
Our own photographer even got pulled over for speeding in the 15 mph school zone on her way to the assignment. So yes, these cops mean business.
These weren’t just any police officers: They were the “Fab Five,” a traffic unit that has earned social media fame with its sassy posts chastising traffic offenders.
No one is spared in their comedic commentary, which includes photos of offending cars (with emojis over license plates), hashtags, memes and humor seemingly geared toward millennials.
“Highest speed for the day was 97 mph by some dude in some beat up G ride,” the unit shared in one post this month. “#JankMachine #MoreSqueaksThanAPetShop.”
Another hit: “If you had $35,000 in traffic and child support warrants would you: A. Lay low and try not to attract attention to yourself OR B. Drive without a license and recklessly through a school zone.”
The hammer even comes down on school bus drivers.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round (way too fast) all through the town,” read one post with a picture of a school bus and the hashtag “#SchoolBusTED.” Another post about a driver with suspended registration used “#RidingDirtaaay.”
The crackdown is noticeable. Last school year, the unit cited 3,601 drivers for traffic violations, according to police. Three months into the current year, the unit has already issued 2,133.
At the rate they’re going, the Fab Five could issue more than 6,000 citations by the end of school, police estimate.
The traffic unit has a long history. It just hadn’t achieved social media notoriety until this year, when Sgt. Michael Campbell posted a photo of a car parked across a crosswalk. Now, he’s the comic behind many of the popular posts.
“A lot of it is from my childhood, like growing up in the ’90s, 2000s, just the movies, the songs we were listening to or whatever,” Campbell said when asked where he draws his inspiration.
He attributes part of the increase in citations to the positive reactions from people online.
“We’ve always been doing this, but … I think with that positive return feedback, it’s boosting morale for the officers,” he said. “It’s giving them, like, vindication of ‘Hey, this is serving a purpose; this makes sense.’ ”
For the record, school police don’t make money off the tickets, which can carry fines of hundreds of dollars and more. Any fines go to the corresponding court system, depending on where the ticket is issued.
Some may argue that police are making fun of drivers by commenting on the smell of a car or cataloging a motorist’s intoxicated behavior.
But Campbell says the point is not to bully drivers but to educate the public and spread awareness on the need to drive safely around schoolchildren.
With that in mind, he hopes to increase the number of people following the unit on Facebook far beyond the current number.
“The more we have following us, maybe tomorrow somebody that’s speeding or doing U-turns or whatever will just be like … ‘Oh, I need to look for these lights because these people are watching.’ ”