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Florida 'Grinch' hands out onions to speeding drivers

A deputy started the tradition more than 20 years ago as a way to remind drivers to slow down in school zones.
Credit: MCSO-Florida Keys
Monroe County Sheriff's Office "Grinch" hands out onions

KEY LARGO, Fla. — He's a mean one...but he's actually giving drivers in the Florida Keys a gift this holiday season.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has once again brought out the "Grinch" to remind drivers to obey speed limits in school zones. 

For an on-brand holiday twist, the "Grinch," who is actually Sheriff's Colonel Lou Caputo in a prickly green costume, surprises speeding drivers with the option of taking home a ticket or an onion. 

The classic Dr. Suess Christmas character can be seen year after year with a radar speed detector in hand next to deputies outside a local elementary school. It's become somewhat of a tradition for the sheriff's office.

Caputo, a 37-year veteran of the agency, conjured up the concept more than 20 years ago, shortly after the live-action movie starring Jim Carrey came out in theatres.

Credit: MCSO-Florida Keys
Monroe County Sheriff's Office "Grinch"

Drivers who travel about 5 mph or less above the school zone’s speed limit can choose between traffic citations and an onion presented by the "Grinch." Those speeding beyond that likely receive a costly ticket.

“It’s about education, awareness that our school zones are still operating even though it’s the holiday season,” Caputo said. “We want people to slow down.”

“It catches them off guard,” Caputo said. “But when I give them a clear choice of a citation or the onion, they will take the onion. And I’ve had them eat the onion right in front of me.”

Schools will remain in session in the Florida Keys through Dec. 16.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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