September 30, 2012

Cornell Police Jaywalking Campaign Meets Mixed Student Reactions

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Provoking skepticism, frustration and even “jaydancing” among students, the Cornell University Police Department issued 94 tickets during its annual roadway safety campaign last week — down from 143 tickets last year.

Fifty-four of the tickets were given out to those who were “crossing on a steady red pedestrian signal,” according to David Honan, deputy chief of CUPD.

Nine “jaywalkers” — pedestrians who disobeyed traffic lights — were given tickets; twenty-one people on bikes were given tickets for infractions ranging from having two headphones plugged in to disobeying red lights and stop signs. Also, one skateboarder was given a ticket for a crossing violation, according to CUPD.

Honan said that CUPD significantly increased its educational efforts –– which included handing out more flyers and warnings to pedestrians –– in its campaign this year.

However, most students expressed skepticism about the efficacy of the campaign.

“The lasting impression many students have is that those who were caught jaywalking on those random days were simply unlucky — not that they were engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior,” Christine Yu ’14 said.

CUPD officers were also not “fair” in their ticketing, Claire Roberson ’15 said.

Ratnika Prasad ’14 said in light of a recent string of sexual assaults on campus, CUPD placed its priorities in the wrong place by focusing on the jaywalking campaign.

“If CUPD took all those officers that they are employing in broad daylight to give jaywalking tickets and employed them at nighttime to make Cornell safer, we would have less assaults and more tickets,” Prasad said.

However, because CUPD received a $2,170 highway safety grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, it was able to conduct the campaign without diverting resources from its regular patrols and investigations into the recent bias and sexual assault incidents, according to CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner.

Other students expressed their disagreement through a “jaydancing” protest Thursday.

Daniel Marshall ’15, one of the organizers of the “jaydancing” event, said that the protest, in which students danced on the street at the intersection of in front of Anabel Taylor Hall, was “stupid, joyful and childish.”

In a press release written by Marshall and Tom Moore ’14, another one of the event’s organizers, the protesters mocked the mission of the jaywalking campaign.

“We believe that only the power of dance can exorcise the spirit of fascism from the hearts of the police,” the press release said. “We believe that childish acts of defiance are the voice of the Earth Mother. We have no demands.”

In an interview with The Sun, Marshall also said that he thinks that issuing tickets at this time of the year is “ridiculous.”

“Personally, I think that it is ridiculous to give people tickets for jaywalking as they are rushing to classes and prelims right now,” he said. Jaywalking is “not a big deal” because pedestrians are “smart,” Marshall added.  Other students, however, said that they thought CUPD addressed an important problem with its campaign.“A couple days before this, I watched these two girls literally walk in front of a driving bus. They didn’t look at all,” Roberson said.Still, CUPD said that it was happy with the results of its campaign this year.“Everything went very well, and we are very pleased with the voluntary compliance we observed this year,” Honan said.

Original Author: Danielle Sochaczevski