Deputy dressed as Grinch gives onions to speeding drivers

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In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Monroe County Sheriff's Office Colonel Lou Caputo, right, costumed as the Grinch, leans on the shoulder of Deputy Andrew Leird, left, as he uses a laser speed detector to check speeds of motorists traveling through a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Marathon, Fla. For drivers slightly speeding through the area, Caputo offers them the choice between an onion or a traffic citation. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

MARATHON, Fla. – Several motorists who were speeding through an elementary school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway received an odorous onion as a reminder to slow down from a county sheriff’s deputy dressed as the Grinch.

Col. Lou Caputo, a 37-year veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office who conjured up the concept more than 20 years ago, was back on the streets Tuesday.

Drivers who travel about 5 mph or less above the school zone’s speed limit can choose between traffic citations and an onion presented by the Grinch. Those speeding beyond that likely receive a costly ticket.

“It’s about education, awareness that our school zones are still operating even though it’s the holiday season,” Caputo said. “We want people to slow down.”

Caputo said he portrays the fictional character created by children’s author Dr. Seuss to give motorists a “gift” but also to call attention in a nice way to the need to obey speed limits in school zones.

“It catches them off guard,” Caputo said.

“But when I give them a clear choice of a citation or the onion, they will take the onion. And I’ve had them eat the onion right in front of me.”

Keys schools remain in session through Dec. 16.