TAMPA — It turns out Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan does a pretty good Macaulay Culkin impression.
Looking to boost the profile of the department’s Vacation Watch program, city staffers suggested a public service campaign featuring a photo of Dugan cradling his face, mouth agape, to mimic 8-year-old Kevin McCallister — played by Culkin — in the iconic image from the 1990 film Home Alone.
Dugan says it didn’t take much to talk him into it.
"Believe it or not, it was very easy, and I have taken a lot of grief over that picture, too," he said with a smile. "That’s one that will come back to haunt me, I’m sure."
But it worked. The department has received more than 100 requests for the program since the message posted on the city’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Next Door accounts at 9 a.m. Friday, said police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor.
"Before 9:30 we already had 17 residents who registered for the free program," McGregor said.
City residents who plan to be out of town for a while can sign up to request a police officer to check on their home if time permits during a 12-hour shift.
The presence will help act as a deterrent, but if officers see signs of forced entry, they can investigate and notify the homeowner. Residents are asked to give the department at least four days’ notice, if possible, but a day or two should suffice, McGregor said.
The Hillsborough and Pinellas county sheriff’s offices have similar programs. The St. Petersburg Police Department does not and encourages city residents to ask neighbors to keep an eye on their home, a department spokeswoman said. Clearwater police will step up patrols near the homes of residents who are out of town.
The Tampa department has had the program for several years and wanted to spread the word on social media.
McGregor said she and Jeremy Rex, a graphic designer for the city, were kicking around ideas and thought of the Home Alone pose.
In the film, Culkin’s character is inadvertently left behind when his family leaves on a holiday trip.
The pose comes from a scene where McCallister slaps on some aftershave. It’s also featured in the movie poster.
They didn’t really expect Dugan to agree.
"We were surprised but were also excited because we knew that his image there would definitely get more people to share it," McGregor said.
Dugan and other city employees have heard from people who have gotten a kick out of a 51-year-old bespectacled bald man who happens to be the police chief holding his face to mimic one of pop culture’s most recognizable cinematic poses.
The photo also contrasts with the grim visage that city residents saw on television and in newspapers as Dugan provided updates on the string of Seminole Heights killings in October and November.
The photo shows the new chief in a different light, a guy with a serious job who apparently doesn’t take himself too seriously.
"I certainly don’t, but my goal was to totally fly under the radar as the chief of police and that totally got ruined," he said with a laugh.
To find out more about or sign up for Tampa Police Department’s Vacation Watch program, go to tampagov.net/vacationwatch.
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.