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ONLINE DOCUMENT: TROOPER TRADING CARDS AIMED AT BUILDING RELATIONS WITH CHILDREN

SHARE ONLINE DOCUMENT: TROOPER TRADING CARDS AIMED AT BUILDING RELATIONS WITH CHILDREN

This may not reach the level of playground kids swapping a Ken Griffey Jr. card for a Sammy Sosa, or dealing a Troy Aikman for a Greg Lloyd.

But there's a new group offering trading cards these days, and it's not an athlete swinging a bat, catching a pass, slam-dunking a basketball or firing a slap shot.They are troopers of the Pennsylvania State Police, aiming radar guns, packing automatic weapons, wearing their trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hats or riding helicopters, motorcycles and horses.

In a move designed to promote better relations between state cops and kids, Pennsylvania state police this week issued a set of seven trading cards like those printed by Topps and Fleer.

The cards come complete with statistics about the force, tidbits about the nation's oldest statewide police department, glossy photos and admonitions about drug use.

The department ordered 249,000 cards, which troopers will distribute at school and community events around the state. Printing the cards cost $4,975, paid for with money forfeited from drug dealers.

"This is another means to bolster positive interaction and trust between police officers and kids," State Police Commissioner Paul Evanko said.

One card features three troopers dressed for combat, armed and ready for battle in the war on crime. They are members of the special emergency response team. Another features a state police insignia.

The cards are the brainchild of Trooper Joe Lakkis, a community service officer based in Wyoming County.

"The idea originated with my father, really. When I first got into community service work, he told me, you know, all the kids are into collecting cards, so why don't the police come out with something like that," Lakkis said.

Lakkis said the Wilkes-Barre Police Department has its own set of cards.

"They've been very popular with the kids and that's the whole idea. It's something for the kids to collect and they have a positive message on the back, about drugs or alcohol," Lakkis said.

Each card features an anti-drug message. The card featuring the trooper on a horse, for instance, says, "Don't horse around with drugs or alcohol."

Evanko, ever the optimist, said more cards could be forthcoming. The next batch could feature drug-sniffing dogs and a scene from the police crime lab.

State police aren't the first ones in the state Capitol to enter the card market.

In 1991, the pro-business group Pennsylvanians for Effective Government issued a series of cards featuring the 253 members of the Legislature. Those cards included details on each member's voting record.

Nobody knows what the value of those cards is, but word has it that several can be found propping up crooked desks and tables around the Capitol.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)