Teddy bears are the newest tool of street-savvy police in the Miami area, whose officers routinely deal with armed drug smugglers and other criminals.

"I think these teddy bears will be a great tool in working with children. We plan to stock at least two teddy bears in each patrol car, and we'll start using them sometime next week in 50 of our patrol cars in the northwest Miami area to see how it works out," said Metro-Dade Cmdr. Lou Diecidue."When a child sees a police officer in a negative situation like an accident or maybe a child abuse case, that child is usually very frightened," Diecidue said.

"We hope that offering these teddy bears will ease a lot of that initial pain and fright they experience."

Miami police Sgt. Roberson Brown said all three shifts of his patrol units will carry the bears and distribute them among poor children throughout the city.

"We think this is a great idea, and we hope it will bridge the gap sometimes existing between a small child and a police officer," Brown said.

Miami radio station WPOW-FM is working with area Burdines department stores to collect at least 5,000 teddy bears for donation to Miami, Metro-Dade, Hollywood and the Broward Sheriff's police agencies.

WPOW assistant promotions director Lori Alterman said the idea came from a magazine article mentioning that Seattle patrol officers carry teddy bears.

"We felt that if the officers approaching a crime scene where a child is involved offer that child a teddy bear to hug and hold and keep for his own, it would help ease a lot of the fear and anxiety that the child experiences at that moment," Alterman said.

"We see it as a stranger offering the child something that's not so strange."