They were hiding in plain sight.
Four officers with the San Bernardino Police Department camped out along a California highway off-ramp posing as panhandlers as part of an undercover sting to bust distracted drivers.
The four-hour operation led to 50 total vehicle stops, including 33 for cell phone violations, 15 seat belt violations and five cars impounded because the drivers were either unlicensed or driving on suspended licenses, police said.
Officers Walton and Alvarez wore sunglasses and plainclothes and held cardboard signs — like those held by a panhandler asking for money — with a twist.
“I am NOT homeless,” the officers wrote by hand on the cardboard. “SB police looking for seatbelt/cell phone violations.”
Texting is illegal while driving in California, while motorists can only speak on the phone using a hands-free device or headset.
“During this detail, our undercover officers walked up to the windows of many vehicles unnoticed by the drivers that were either talking or texting on their cell phones,” police said in a statement on the sting. “Those calls and messages can wait until you arrive at your destination and are not worth risking the life of yourself or those around you while driving.”