Officers hand out hams to traffic violators instead of tickets

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Several people drove off with more than just a warning or ticket from police. As a part of the holiday spirit, the Altoona Police Department in Wisconsin gifted traffic violators with a little something extra for their dinner tables.

Altoona Police officers were on the hunt for traffic violators, but they didn't consist of your typical stop.

"Hi ma'am, good afternoon, I'm Officer Helstern with the Altoona Police Department," Anthony Helstern said as he approached a car.

Instead of receiving a slip of paper with a fine on it, folks drove off with something a little bit heavier.

"Karyn, I'm going to take your advice and this year we want people to 'Ham a merry Christmas'," Helstern said.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the department received $500. With that money, they partnered with Woodman's Food Market and went on ham patrol; giving back to lucky traffic violators.

"It lets people know, even though we have a job to do, to make sure the community is safe, and sometimes we do that through moving violations or traffic citations, it's not just about that," Helstern said. "We like to be better, we like people to understand it's not always the worst thing in the world to get pulled over. Sometimes there's a good at the end of it. Maybe just good education or in today's case you might get a gift."

While the hams were a surprise to those lucky folks, officers said it's a little hard to be discreet when you're walking up to a car, with a 10-pound ham

"It took him so long, I thought he was actually going to give me a ticket," said Karyn Rasmussen of Hayward. "So I was really happy to have a ham."

"We get caught up in our lives and it's very easy to forget the struggles that families have," Helstern added. "Every family is different. There's families that struggle through the holidays and don't know where they're going to come up with a meal or maybe not even have a Christmas meal because maybe they can't afford it. If this helps them at least have a better meal or just a little bit better Christmas, then I think we've done our job."

Officers are leaving folks with one more note:

"So do we not want to stop at stop signs anymore?" joked Bill Rasmussen.

Helstern answered, "I wouldn't make it a regular practice."