APD launches second part of jaywalking initiative

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The Austin Police Department completed the first phase of its zero-tolerance jaywalking initiative Saturday and has begun the second phase, which focuses on cars failing to yield to street-crossing pedestrians.

According to Lt. Ely Reyes, APD issued 475 citations and 180 warnings to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists for pedestrian-related violations during the first two-week initiative. Fifty citations were given to cars failing to yield to pedestrians and 13 arrests were made due to outstanding arrest warrants, he said.

Reyes said the week-long second phase of the initiative targets cars that don’t yield to pedestrians as they cross the street and uses different tactics than the first phase.

“We are utilizing plainclothes police officers who cross the street [legally] and see if cars obey the law,” Reyes said. “Then we will have motorcycle police arrive and issue the citation if the cars don’t yield.”

Reyes said the heavy police presence during the first phase made cars follow the traffic laws, but a stronger effort is needed to reduce the number of cars breaking the law in general.

“Crossing the street or not yielding to pedestrians becomes a habitual action if you are never fined for breaking these laws,” Reyes said. “Our plan was to enforce [car violations], but when [they] see officers, they are more likely to comply and yield.”

APD sees the zero-tolerance initiative and the increase in citations given as necessary to promote safety and reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities.

Reyes said the increase in pedestrian fatalities coincides with the relatively low number of citations given during the first nine months of 2011.

“From January to September 2011, we issued 2,100 citations, which is a four-year low,” Reyes said. “We’ve also seen a spike in pedestrian fatalities during this time period.”

In 2007, the number of pedestrian fatalities was 24, and APD responded in 2008 by issuing 8,000 citations for pedestrian violations. The number of fatalities dropped to 15, Reyes said.

In 2009, the number of citations decreased from 8,000 to 5,000 with 15 reported fatalities. In 2010, there were 4,000 citations with 10 reported fatalities. The increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2011 from 10 to 17 was the basis for APD’s zero-tolerance initiative.

Electrical engineering freshmen Kelvin Odom and Brian Russell said they saw a police officer give a citation to someone for crossing against the signal immediately after they did the same thing on 24th Street and Guadalupe Street.

“I think it’s good the police are looking out for safety,” Odam said. “But giving $190 fines is pretty excessive, and I would definitely try to have it reduced to just community service.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 as: APD changes ticketing focus to unyielding cars