CityWatch, Apr 10, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 29
Watching the LAPD conduct a crosswalk sting operation is like watching the home team win the big game, over and over again. Last week, Capt. Trotter of Valley traffic responded to the recent spike in pedestrian deaths by deploying a team of traffic officers to the intersection of Reseda and Dearborn on the west side of Cal State Northridge.
Sgt. Justice ran the operation which consisted of plainclothes officers crossing the street in the crosswalk while a dozen officers stood by in squad cars and on motorcycles to cite the motorists who fail to yield the road to the pedestrians.
Senior Lead Officer Del Valle was the first LAPD "decoy" to cross the street and on his first pass three motorists blew past him, earning citations from the motorcycle officers who raced into the congested street with lights, sirens and loudspeakers full bore.
Within minutes, all officers were busy writing tickets and the decoys had a chance to rest while waiting for the supporting team to reposition.
The intersection of Reseda and Dearborn has residential on one side and CSUN on the other. In both directions on Reseda there are abundant restaurants, coffee shops and businesses that draw a heavy pedestrian crowd, all supported by crosswalks that challenge the primacy of the motor vehicle.
The crosswalk sting drew immediate attention from neighbors, the merchants and students with many stopping by to thank the LAPD and to share their own "ped vs. motorist" horror stories.
As for the motorists, their responses ranged from "there was no ped" to "I didn't see the ped" to " I thought the other cars were stopping to turn" to "I just followed the other cars." These excuses prompted Capt. Trotter to explain "When a motorist sees other cars slow down or stop, they must assume there's a pedestrian in the area, even if they can't see one, and they must slow down and be prepared to yield."
The impact of the sting was dramatic to watch, especially when the motorcycle officers rode into the traffic with one arm in the air like cowboys herding cattle and pulling over up to four motorists at a time.
Sgt. Justice was asked how other neighborhoods could advocate for a similar operation in their community but his response was less than encouraging. "The LAPD doesn't respond to public pressure but uses data to determine where to deploy our forces."
In other words, LA's vision for safe streets is based on reacting to the unnecessary death of our most vulnerable before we act to make our streets walkable, ridable and livable.
If you'd like to work with the LAPD to make our streets safer, take a walk to your local police station and invite the Captain to go for a walk.
Unfortunately, getting a police escort is the only safe way to cross the street these days. Let's work together to change that. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. )