The police are warning the public to be on the lookout for a growing number of bogus, unqualified lollipop men operating across Britain. Their numbers have risen sharply over the past eighteen months and there are now estimated to be around one hundred actively working at any given time.
"There's no evidence of any malice involved," says detective sergeant Mark Letts of the Lesser Manchester Police. "The perpetrators tend to be poorly-educated people of low self-esteem and few prospects, the sort of person who sees the big, round "STOP" sign as a symbol of a lifestyle for which they yearn but can never have. So they try to take the easy route."
Denied access to the real thing D.S. Letts says that the imposters immerse themselves into a fantasy world using the cap, the high-visibility coat and the iconic "STOP" sign as props with which to furnish their Walter Mitty lives.
Whilst some of the fraudulent crossing patrol officers ("they're contemptuous of the term 'lollipop man' " says D.S. Letts) are discovered after making elementary errors such as attempting to operate at weekends others are far more astute and go to great lengths to avoid detection, secretly analysing the activies of real lollipop men for months at a time enabling them to pass off their deception with a frightening precision that makes them detectable to only the most expert observer.
"The extremists have realised that they can work most effectively by combining their dubious talents and working as a team", explains D.S. Letts describing how one gang kidnapped Norwich lollipop man Ernest Bevan and took turns at doing his job whilst telling anyone who enquired after him that Mr Bevan had been forced into retirement due to work-related stress (he was in fact being kept in a degree of considerable comfort and appeared not-particularly-relieved when his ordeal was over). The deception only became apparent during a traffic light failure when the imposter, untrained to deal with such an emergercy, threw down his ill-gotten "STOP" sign and fled, panic-stricken, into the winter night.
"Which just goes to show", says D.S Letts, "If you can't make it, don't fake it".