September 27, 2011

Police Issue 78 Jaywalking Tickets

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Cornell University Police handed out 78 tickets Tuesday as a part of a two-day crackdown on jaywalking violations, according to CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner. The step-up in enforcement will continue Wednesday.

In addition to the jaywalking tickets, two students received Judicial Administrator referrals. The first JA referral was for “failing to comply with a university official,” and the other was for “riding a bicycle in a dismount zone,” Zoner said.

CUPD Sergeant Anthony Tostanoski, who was in charge of the two-and-a-half hour operation, said that the fines for jaywalking violations would be decided by the City Court on a case-by-case basis.

A student who requested to remain anonymous said that when he received a ticket, he was told that he could pay anywhere from zero to 150 dollars. He said the officer who issued his ticket estimated that it would probably be 25 dollars.

The educational and ticketing program was made possible by a New York State Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant of $9,600. Last year, CUPD had a similar one-day program on Sept. 30. Only 39 tickets were issued then because of heavy rainfall, according to Tostanoski.

Police parked two police cars for the operation on the sidewalk near the intersection of College Avenue and Campus Road, near Anabel Taylor Hall, from about 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Tostanoski explained that CUPD chose the location because of the traffic problems caused by pedestrians and cyclists. A total of seven officers participated in the operation, he said.

“What we’ve noticed over the last couple of years is… the traffic will get backed up half a mile [at this intersection],” Tostanoski said.

Police said the need for increased jaywalking enforcement comes on the heels of an increase in “personal injury accidents.”

From 2009 to 2010, the number of such accidents on campus doubled from nine to 18, according to Tostanoski. “Out of the extra nine, most of them involved pedestrians, bikes or skateboards,” he said.

“The cause of the increase was nearly all due to unsafe pedestrian crossing or unsafe bicycle operation,” Zoner added.

This year, however, the number of accidents have decreased.

“This year’s numbers are tracking much lower again — with nine to date — and a greatly reduced number of personal injury crashes related to crosswalk or bicycle infractions,” Zoner said.

Jacob Arluck ’14 was one of the students who received a ticket.

“I started to walk in the street and there were no cars coming. There was one way, way up the road. There was no way it was a threat, and I started to go and the guy called me back,” he said.

Arluck said that he agreed with the intention of the program, but noted that the police should focus less on pedestrians and more on cyclists.

“I think it’s an overemphasis on jaywalking when there are things they could cut down on easily — like biking,” he said. “At first, I was like, ‘It’s a good thing because everyone just starts to walk,’ but then I thought it was kind of the wrong emphasis because there are a lot of dangerous bikers.”

Joey Staehle ’13 also received a ticket, which he said caused him to arrive 20 minutes late for a prelim. Staehle said that about 30 students were waiting in line at a police car to receive their tickets after police took their ID cards away.

“There was a green light for Campus Road, and no cars were coming, and I crossed College Avenue, and a cop was standing there, and he called me over,” Staehle said. “I was like ‘Can you make this quick? I have a big exam,’ and he was like, ‘You shouldn’t have been jaywalking then.’”

The increased ticketing is the final phase of a month-long educational program to curb jaywalking violations. During the month of September, police handed out 1000 educational fliers and issued 500 to 700 warnings, Tostanoski said.

“We believe that a successful traffic safety campaign is graduated in its approach and has three steps: first, we identify possible causes, then begin a long period of extensive education to address these causes, and end the campaign with the issuance of consequences for violators,” Zoner said.

Despite the educational aspect of the program, Arluck questioned the police’s methods. He said that CUPD needs to find a better way to send out their message.

“If you’re going to have a strict warning on jaywalking, and you want everyone to know about it, you should send something like the forcible touching email — a campus wide thing,” he said. “If you’re from a non-urban area, like me, it’s not something you would ever think of.”

Staehle agreed that CUPD did not do a sufficient job in warning students about the ticketing ahead of time.

“They said they gave out handouts and warnings, but I never got a handout or got any warning,” he said.

Police said response to the ticketing was generally positive and understanding.

“99 percent of the time, they understand,” Tostanoski said. “Two [people] so far were kind of upset.”

Some onlookers took the time to thank the police for the program, Shea Hasenauer ’13 said.

However, Derek Paxson ’14 questioned the efficacy of the program because tickets were only being issued two days during the year. Paxson said he had been given a warning Monday night, and the officer told Paxson that he would have given him a ticket if it had been just one day later.

“I feel like it’s really inconsistent,” he said. “It kind of takes away from the seriousness of it.”

Original Author: Joseph Niczky