February 5, 2013

To walk or not to walk? Police ramp up campus traffic patrol, students concerned

By Noor Yussuf–

As ULPD tightens its traffic safety measures, students are faced with the choice to walk against the light and risk incurring a fine.

Effective since Jan. 28, the University of Louisville Police Department has begun citing students for crossing the street against traffic lights, an act commonly referred to as “jaywalking.”

“The reason we are doing this is we have got complaints from students, staff and faculty because of the safety issues with people crossing—like students who were almost hit by cars. We have had drivers who have students walk in front of them because the students are not paying attention. That’s what has caused us to take a look at the traffic situation, not just particular incidents,” explained Assistant Chief of Police, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Brown.

The police are not just citing students for jaywalking, however; they will also patrol traffic to prevent speeding. There were at least two incidents in the last three weeks in which a driver hit a student.

If a student receives a citation, he or she must pay $134 for court fees, and any extra fines that may be determined by a judge based on the nature of the police report. Fines will increase the more often a student is cited.

Major of Operations David James explained that the officers patrolling campus traffic would not be assigned to any alternate beats; this will be their full-time patrol. James also said that non-traffic officers, should they see a violation, would be obliged to cite students as well.

The officers will mainly focus on the north side of campus: major posts are the corners of Third and Cardinal, Fourth and Cardinal, Third and Bloom, Fourth and Bloom. They will also be patrolling Brandeis Avenue, Floyd Street, and Warnock Street.

ULPD has 41 officers in total, whose beats cover all three campuses, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. They also employ detectives who follow up on crimes that happen around campus. These detectives will also be citing students.

There is growing concern among students whether the university should spend time citing students for jaywalking.

Carrie Mattingly, Student Government Association Vice-President for Academics said of the traffic enforcement safety detail: “I am not in agreement with the university’s plan to cite students for ‘jaywalking.’ Certain places on campus (that are) under construction have made it increasingly difficult to walk across campus. I agree that student safety when using crosswalks should be on the university’s radar, but I feel that violations are more often, if not just as often, committed by drivers who do not yield when pedestrians have the right of way.”

One construction site in particular that concerns Mattingly is the Speed Art Museum renovation. She argues that the suggested detour is more problematic than jaywalking itself. “I acknowledge that officers must look out for the safety of students in that congested area. I would argue that officers could patrol that area, but I do not think that citations would be a rightful way to change student behavior. The focus should be student safety, not punishing students for doing something logical as they are trying to get to class on time,” said Mattingly.

Nick Peak, a resident assistant at Center Hall, said: “I appreciate ULPD’s growing interest in student safety while crossing the streets that run through our campus. Would I be angry if I got cited and possibly fined for jaywalking? Yes. But I think this new plan will keep students from jaywalking, and the safety of the students is the primary motivation behind their new plan.”

Though jaywalking is the biggest concern for many students, it is not ULPD’s main concern.

“Jaywalking is not the focus,” said James. “The focus of our activity would best be described as traffic enforcement activities designed to enhance the safety of the pedestrians and motorists in and around the campus. Crosswalks are not designed to be the most convenient places (to cross); they are designed to be the safest locations.”

Responding to concerns that ULPD could more effectively use time dealing with robberies and other crimes, James said, “We are not spending more time on traffic than we do on other issues. The number one responsibility of this agency is the safety of this campus and its personnel, students, faculty and staff. Traffic safety is a part of that. You can get injured or killed by a car so that’s part of keeping everybody safe.”

Also in response to these concerns, Lt. Col. Brown explained that only one officer would be moved from regular duty to traffic, and assured that other crimes would still remain a priority. “If we have a robbery, the officer will probably stop writing a citation and will probably be pulled to detail to assist other officers.

“(With) every citation that is written, a person pays the fine through the court with no impact on their university record. There is no punishment from the university itself to the individual.”

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Photo: Stephanie Hoff/The Louisville Cardinal

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