Police threaten to tow Andrew Theodore’s Halloween spectacle for sticking out onto road

fake car crash

Andrew Theodore’s annual Halloween lawn display involved a fake car crash this year, which led to one person calling police believing it was real. Police ended up asking Theodore to move the car back so part of it wasn’t sticking out onto the road. (Andrew Theodore)

A fake car crash set up by a man in Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood drew a very real police response on Saturday, as officers said they’d send a tow truck if the display wasn’t moved back from the road.

Andrew Theodore said he books every Halloween off from his job as an IT consultant so he and some friends can set up an elaborate, interactive yard display for children in the area, like werewolves in cages or a staged headless horsemen fight.

At around noon on Oct. 31, Theodore set up a fake collision scene with a car from a junkyard that would also serve as a reminder not to text and drive.

“I had the car pushed up onto my yard hitting the tree, which left about three feet, maybe three and a half feet, hanging onto the street,” said Theodore on Sunday.

“We had caution tape around it. We had a bunch of stones built up around it to make it look like it crashed through the stone wall.”

About three hours after installing the scene, Ottawa police showed up, Theodore said.

“We had three cop cars by here. They tried to find a bunch of different reasons why I couldn’t keep it. And in the end, their final reason was I’m not allowed to have it overhanging on the road,” he said.

Potential safety risk

Theodore said police first told him they had received a call from someone who thought it was the scene of a real crash, and they didn’t want more people to call and potentially waste their resources.

The officers also called it a safety risk, as kids could potentially climb on it and hurt themselves, Theodore said. He said he tried to reason with the officers, pointing out that, as part of the scene, three actor friends would be watching closely to make sure no one would climb on it.

Eventually, the officers told him that he couldn’t have the totalled car hanging over the road, said Theodore.

“I said, ‘If I can’t get the guy to come back and move it with a forklift, what’s going to happen?’ And their response was, ‘We’ll bring in a tow truck and we’ll tow it out tonight.'”

Theodore said someone from the company that was landscaping his yard came and moved the car back from the road. Police didn’t say anything when they came back to check, he said.

Theodore said someone is coming to pick the car up again on Monday.

“I even thought of asking one of [the officers] to stay and have their lights on and talk to the kids about texting and driving,” he said. “But then, when I realized it was not a joke to them and they were not taking it in the spirit of the evening, it wasn’t fun. I was very disappointed.”

“A lot of effort and money and time goes into this and to have to dismantle it for one person calling in to complain was upsetting.”

Texting and driving is ‘scary’

Theodore said he wasn’t sure if a car wreck fit the spirit of Halloween until one of his friends came up with the idea of connecting the crash to the dangers of texting and driving.

Homeowner standing next to his Halloween display.

Andrew Theodore stands beside the fake car crash for his Halloween lawn display on Sunday. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

“Texting and driving is such a big thing these days… we thought it would be a good opportunity to target the kids with that message,” he said.

“I’m constantly seeing people [driving] with their head down, texting, it’s scary. You see them swerving across the lines and next thing you know, you look over and there they are texting. It was a good opportunity to bring everything together.”

Rola Shaar lives on the street and said she was fooled by the fake wreck at first, but later appreciated what it was trying to do.

“I thought it was pretty good, I think it was the right message to send to kids. My kids went up to check it out,” she said.

“Using Halloween to reinforce that message to these little kids, I think it’s great.”

Theodore said he’s going to keep creating his Halloween displays, but he’ll make sure they’re contained to his yard.

“I can understand in general, sure, you can’t block the road. People need to be able to drive, all that. But on Halloween with everything obviously set up as a prank, I think they had some leeway that they could have exercised that,” he said. “They chose not to.”

Ottawa police declined to comment.

Source: CBC News