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Detroit police surprise drivers with holiday gifts instead of tickets before Christmas.

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Detroit – About a dozen residents expecting a ticket from Detroit Police on Friday instead were surprised with presents just before Christmas.

A group of Detroit officers spent a couple hours handing out gift baskets at a school in Midtown to spread holiday cheer to unsuspecting families as they arrived to pick up their children.

Nantra Smith was terrified to see three police cars flashing lights behind her but was overcome with emotion when she realized she’d be receiving gifts for her four kids.

“My spirits are really down. My uncle and dad passed away and they loved this time of year but you really made my day,” Smith said as she hugged officers.

The gift distribution at Burton International Academy on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., was facilitated by the Detroit Police and Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities, a Dearborn-based nonprofit human service organization.

The group launched the gift-giving effort last year with Dearborn police and decided to expand it this season to Detroit, said Ali Berri, a program coordinator for the nonprofit.

“Our goal is to make these families’ holiday a bit better and reinforce the bridge between police and the community,” said Berri, adding organizers spent months partnering with sponsors and packaging the toys, food, winter gear and school supplies.

Kenyatta McCadney first thought he was being pulled over Friday because he’d left his car in a no parking zone while going into the school to pick up his 6-year-old son, Kaymar, and 5-year-old daughter, Kimaya.

“My kids are going to love this they were just asking for presents today, he said.

Overall, the nonprofit handed out 150 vouchers for gift baskets during traffic stops throughout the city this week.

Detroit Police Detective Mike Pacteles said Friday that people “were emotional and it’s also a great feeling for us to do something nice for the community.”

Duane Wilson, a father of four daughters ages 6-19, said the surprise came at a time when his family needs it.

“We have a lot to buy and it helps,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know what was happening I just turned the corner and lights were flashing.”

srahal@detroitnews.com

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