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Pittsfield Police Advisory Vents Frustration With Jaywalkers
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
08:24PM / Monday, February 04, 2013
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The Pittsfield Police Advisory Committee debated ways to prevent jaywalking, including fines.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Advisory Committee wants the city to implement a new fine structure for jaywalkers even though enforcement is nearly impossible.

The committee will ask the City Council to look at adding a fee structure to the ordinance, which currently carries only $1 and $2 fines for jaywalkers. Members are also asking for signs to be posted short term on various roadways with heavy pedestrian traffic.

"I just want to take the excuses away from the pedestrians and put them on the sidewalks that taxpayers pay $400,000 a year to maintain," said Scott Clements, who had researched the issue and asked the rest of the committee to support him. "I'm not looking at the dollars. I see it as a weakness in the law and it should be changed."

Clements said he often nearly runs over pedestrians who are crossing outside of a crosswalk or even walking down the middle of the road. He asked police for statistics and found that in 2010 and 2011, there were 44 crashes involving pedestrians and vehicles, with one of those being a fatal. Just months ago, another fatality occurred on First Street.

"The majority of the fault is on the pedestrians," Clements said.

Clements proposed mirroring the city's fines for homeowners who do not shovel the sidewalk in front of their homes, which is a warning for first offense, $25 for the second, $100 for the third and $150 for the fourth.

Police Lt. Kate O'Brien appreciated the gesture but said a fine structure won't solve the problem. Police would also need a way to document and keep track of the number of fines and verify names of those who do not have identification on them — such as students.

"I understand your frustration as a driver in the city of Pittsfield," O'Brien said, adding that currently the police can arrest a pedestrian who runs into the streets for disorderly conduct. "But I do not think this will be as great of a deterrent as you think."

Clements said the lack of ability to enforce the ordinance is the same "roadblock" he has hit while researching many others. But in the end he hopes to be able to help implement systems to keep track of those types of fines and putting these fines on the books will increase awareness, he said.

Additionally, he said it would be helpful for citations to be issued when there is property damage for insurance purposes.

The rest of committee agreed that there are many areas of the city that have problems with jaywalking, such as at Pittsfield High School when the students are on lunch or out of school. But they also agreed that enforcement is nearly impossible and would be low on an officer's priority list.

However, they said more awareness could help and suggested requesting that signage be placed reminding pedestrians of the law.

"Let's at least make an attempt to address it," Phyllis Smith said.

In other business, the committee is looking at ways to improve communications between the Police Department and the public including surveys, heard a presentation from the Gang Unit and presented packets documenting the deficiencies in the Police Station to elected officials.

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