Affton, MO (KSDK)- On traffic patrol in Affton, Missouri St. Louis County Police officers are always on the lookout.
"It's a little bit of everything, "explains Officer David Meyer. "You've got your speeders, you've got people who run red lights. Stop signs."
But on our ride along, we had probable cause to believe that this was a very unusual operation.
After Fahrudin Vrbanjac was pulled over by Officer David Meyer, he actually came out of the conversation feeling good.
"Ok, I can do this," he said.
The man behind the mission to keep drivers in Affton smiling instead of sulking, is Captain Chris Stocker, the Precinct Commander.
"It was really given birth by all the conversations that came out of the officer involved shooting in Ferguson last year," said Stocker.
Captain Stocker says law enforcement, in the interest of public safety has the responsibility to stop those who violate traffic laws but those stops should not be for the purpose of generating revenue.
That's where the Affton Christian Food Pantry comes in.
"We have approximately 800 individuals we feed every month. About 200 families that we're feeding," explains Jennifer Meehan, Exec. Director of the Affton Christian Food Pantry.
The food pantry is supported by local churches and individual donors but Captain Stocker wondered if there might another way to help.
"I think there's a lot of folks out there that don't really understand that the communities that they've driven through, that they reside that there are those that can't feed themselves or feed others," said Stocker.
So the Captain decided that his officers could be accessories to charities.
As long as the offenses are minor, instead of handing out speeding tickets, his officers have the discretion to hand out pantry tickets.
"At first, they kind of look at you like you kind of have three heads," laughs Meyer.
Drivers who are stopped are under no obligation but since they're getting a break from police they're invited to give money to places like the Affton Christian Food Pantry. The program's only been in place since June so donations aren't up yet, but "The one thing we have noticed that there's more awareness in the community oh yeah, Affton Christian Food Pantry. I've heard of that!," says Meehan.
When Chuck Speth was pulled over, he was both relieved and resolute.
"I'm able to take that lesson and provide money and funds to people that are less fortunate," he told us.
It may just be a small step but when it comes to encounters between the public and police, drivers we talked to say it's a small step in the right direction.
"If this program kind of re-energizes that faith, that trust that respect in law enforcement ,then it's succeeded well beyond everything I had hoped for," says Stocker.
Pantry tickets instead of speeding tickets. A sting operation that doesn't sting.