APD cracks down on jaywalking

Nick Hadjigeorge

The Austin Police Department has begun ticketing people for jaywalking and other violations after a sharp increase in pedestrian fatalities this year.

Seventeen pedestrians have been killed this year in motor vehicle accidents — a 143 percent increase compared to last year, said Lt. Ely Reyes of APD’s Highway Enforcement Command.

From Oct. 24 through Nov. 5, Reyes said APD will use a zero-tolerance program to enforce laws prohibiting crossing anywhere other than a designated crosswalk, crossing against a do not cross signal and soliciting or loitering at frontage road intersections.

“We are going to focus on Congress Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street, Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive, Slaughter Lane and I-35 and various locations on Guadalupe Street and Lamar Boulevard,” Reyes said.

Robert Dahlstrom, UT Police Department’s chief of police, said enforcing these kinds of restrictions on campus doesn’t work because it is a different environment from the rest of Austin.

“We don’t have enough officers in the world to start writing tickets [for pedestrian violations],” Dahlstrom said. “But we encourage people to always be careful and pay attention to all the cars, bikes and pedestrians that we have on campus.”

Reyes said APD compiled data from the past four years to determine the 50 locations in Austin with the most pedestrian accidents. Six to 12 motorcycle officers will be patrolling these areas throughout the day. Reyes said the only purpose of the zero-tolerance program is to reduce the number of accidents occurring at these locations around Austin.

“Some people said this was about APD trying to increase revenue, but we only want to save lives and reduce accidents,” Reyes said.

Public relations sophomore Cara Pascarella said she sometimes jaywalks on campus but understands the danger of doing so on busy roads.

“People jaywalk on campus mostly because they are in a hurry to get places,” Pascarella said. “I also see people who are using their cell phones while crossing the street, and they don’t really pay attention.”

Reyes said APD worked with the courts to reach a deal that allows people who receive a ticket to plea for a reduced fine in exchange for community service.

“We looked for a way to reduce the financial penalty for these violations,” Reyes said.

Printed on Friday, October 28, 2011 as: ADP enforcing more tickets for jaywalking