University police crack down on jaywalkers

Pedestrians face a $95 ticket if caught jaywalking in Hennepin County.

Jake Grovum

First-year biology student Femi Fagbemi was jogging down Washington Avenue Thursday morning.

When she crossed Harvard Street, she was stopped by University Police Officer Gary Held and issued a ticket for jaywalking.

“I saw that there were no cars, which is why I crossed,” Fagbemi said. “People don’t have time to wait for the lights to change.”

Fagbemi is one of many students given a ticket for jaywalking since the University Police Department stepped up enforcement Tuesday.

A ticket given to a pedestrian who disobeys a traffic signal costs the offender $95 in Hennepin County, Lieutenant Chuck Miner said.

“$500 for littering, $100 for jaywalking, they need the money,” Fagbemi said. “I’ll probably still jaywalk; I’ll just make sure there aren’t any police around.”

The increased patrol, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., was put in place to control additional traffic due to the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Miner said. Officers are also patrolling at Arlington Street, which connects Pleasant Avenue to East River Road.

“We didn’t put them there and say ‘You write as many jaywalking tickets as you possibly can,’ ” Miner said. “That’s kind of a repercussion of keeping the traffic moving.”

The officers patrolling the intersections are overtime officers, paid time-and-a-half for their work, Miner said. The department has the same number of officers on duty patrolling and answering emergency calls as normal.

Officer Shawn Jackson said with the increased traffic from the bridge collapse and construction around campus, the situation on the street has been “madness.”

In the days since classes began, there have been “a lot of near-misses” between cars and students walking or biking, Jackson said, but no accidents.

Jackson was on patrol at the intersection when genetics senior Mark Pierson crossed Washington Avenue at Harvard Street and was given a jaywalking ticket.

By the time he decided to cross the street, all traffic had driven by, Pierson said.

“It’s (stupid) in all aspects to wait here when no traffic is moving,” Pierson said.

He said he plans to challenge the citation.

Journalism and Spanish senior Erik Borg was stopped as he crossed Harvard Street at Washington Avenue on Thursday morning.

As he crossed the street, an officer told him to stop and go back, but he was halfway across the street and decided to run the rest of the way, Borg said.

When he got to the other side of the street, he was stopped and issued a ticket for jaywalking.

“I think they’re trying to pick people off and make some money,” Borg said. “I was just trying to get out of the way.”

Situations like this are not uncommon at the intersection. Officers have told pedestrians to go back across the street or face a jaywalking ticket, a situation that could cause more problems, something Jackson called “assumed risk.”

“I assume the officer’s paying attention to what’s going on around him,” Miner said. “(He) wouldn’t tell them to do that if they’re going to get hit by a car.”

While jaywalkers might not be the biggest concern of University police, Miner said failure to enforce the law can turn into a significant problem for the department.

“It sounds like a minor offense, and it is a minor offense, until somebody gets hit by a car,” he said. “Then people would be saying, ‘Why aren’t you enforcing laws and keeping people safe on campus?’ “