Police Enforce Pedestrian Safety, Cell Phone Violations
Main Street operation targets crosswalk laws and cell phone use.
Chatham Borough Police set up their first special enforcement detail along Main Street Wednesday morning.
"We're hoping to do this at least monthly," Lt. Brian Gibbons said, "more often when we're getting complaints."
The special enforcement began at about 7:30 a.m. and will last until about noon. Police will target drivers who disobey state crosswalk laws in the morning commute hours, especially at Main Street and Coleman Avenue, and cell phone use in the later morning hours.
Police Sgt. Jayson Cittrich organized the enforcement detail and put the unit together for the Wednesday morning hours. "He recognized that it's good timing, before school starts and right before the holiday," Gibbons said.
Gibbons, dressed in jeans and a hooded pull-over, spent the first hour of the enforcement detail crossing and re-crossing the Main Street and Coleman Avenue intersections in the crosswalk.
State law says drivers must stop, not yield, to pedestrians in crosswalks, regardless of where the pedestrian is in the crosswalk. "Right now we're not strictly enforcing this because it recently changed," Gibbons said. "It's about education right now," though blatant violators were pulled over.
After a few of these special details, Gibbons said, "we'll really start strict enforcement."
After three cars passed him while he was in the crosswalk, he said, "Do you see how bad it is?"
Once Traffic Safety Officer Robert Sweetin, driving a marked car and dressed in uniform, joined Gibbons, more drivers began to stop. Still, Sweetin spoke with at least two drivers who neglected to stop for pedestrians.
When it comes to cell phone use while driving, Gibbons said, "that we have zero tolerance for. People know about that law," and "cell phone drivers [have] been a real problem."
Reno Di Genova, a Coleman Avenue resident, called borough police to report a "suspicious person" in a hoodie and jeans walking in circles in the Coleman-Main intersection. Gibbons introduced himself to Di Genova after the call came in, and the two discussed pedestrian safety at the intersection.
"I see a number of people coming off the trains, and a lot of drivers don't stop," Di Genova said. "I feel like there are a lot of driving laws that people don't know about."
Gibbons estimated police pulled over between 10 and 15 cars in the first hour of the special enforcement. "It's bad," he said. "They're just totally distracted."
"People are going to start complying with the law on this," Sweetin said. "Someone is going to get hurt."