There’s a Santa-like figure patrolling the roads of Lower Saucon Township this holiday season, but he doesn’t rely on reindeer or sport a bushy white beard.
Instead, he wears a badge, carries a gun and drives a township police cruiser.
His name is Ofc. Charles “Chuck” Werkheiser, and for the past five years he’s conducted what he calls “Operation Santa Stop” on his own initiative, surprising motorists he stops for speeding or vehicle equipment violations with Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards concealed within the registration papers he hands back to them.
Werkheiser said he typically wishes the motorist a “merry Christmas” or “happy holidays” and leaves, never to see their reaction upon finding the surprise gift.
“I want people to have a positive experience with police,” he said, adding that “it’s not always positive all of the time.”
For the first few years he conducted Operation Santa Stop, Werkheiser said he told no one about it, because he wasn’t seeking recognition for it.
Eventually he told Lower Saucon Township Police Chief Guy Lesser, who he said has been supportive of his one-man mission, which this year involves giving out $10 Dunkin Donuts to 10 motorists he stops during December. Not all of them have been given out yet, he said Wednesday.
One surprise gift he gave a Lower Saucon man he stopped for driving with a burned-out headlight on Black River Road last week has already made a big impression, however.
Lisa DiRusso posted on her Facebook page Dec. 11 that her husband, Joe, “told the officer he knew about it, but just hadn’t had a chance to fix it because he has been getting home in the dark” after a busy day working long hours at an area post office.
“The officer gave him a ‘warning’ card and told him to get it fixed ASAP, and sent him on his way,” she wrote. “Mixed in with the info. was a Dunkin Donuts gift card… How nice is that? Thank you Lower Saucon Police Department Badge #190.”
Werkheiser, who’s served on the Lower Saucon Township Police Department for nearly eight years and lives in Nazareth, explained that he simply puts his badge number on the warnings because he isn’t seeking recognition for his kind deed.
“I just want people to know that police do care,” he said, adding that many of the motorists he stops are just like Joe DiRusso; good, law-abiding people who are extra busy during the holidays who simply have a lot of responsibilities to juggle.
This can be a stressful time of year, he said, and the last thing he wants to be is a Grinch who brings more stress to “people…with fines.”
“We all hit bumps in the road,” he said.