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Columbus Jaywalkers Targeted

Columbus police recently announced plans to crack down on pedestrians who who cross city streets against the light, or outside of a crosswalk. Police say they'll issue tickets to jaywalkers in order to keep them safe. But some residents think police could better spend their time fighting serious crime.

Driving on High Street through the Ohio State campus is rather like being on the inside of a pinball machine. A city bus here, a bike rider there, and the occasional tardy student making a mad dash across four lanes of traffic in an effort to get to class on time. Katie Clyde is a student at the university. "I've jaywalked in the past, definietly." Clyde says.

Driving near the heart of downtown outside of City Center is fraught with similar obstacles. Rick Abraham is a lawyer who works downtown. "I've done it myself, I can tell you that." Says Abraham.

While supporters of the jaywalking crackdown concede busy workers might feel harrassed if they're are cited for crossing the street in the wrong spot... Police spokeswoman Betty Schwab says one of the Division's most important priorities is to ensure public safety."You might think its a victimless crime but if you are the pedestrian that gets struck by a car because you are walking against the 'no walk' sign then you are a victim." Says Schwab.

Critics like OSU student Katie Clyde say pedestrian safety is important but she thinks police officers could better use there time going after more serious criminal offenders."It seems like there may be some more important ways they could be spending their time and resources." Says Clyde.

Cleve Ricksecker is the Project Director of Capital CrossRoads, a Downtown Development Company. He's all for the crackdown. According to Ricksecker, by citing jaywalkers, police are actually preventing the commission of more serious crimes. "When somebody's stopped in a jaywalking infraction it allows the police to do a background check and a weapons check. So not only will police prevent jaywalking but they'll also discover that there are people with outstanding warrants for their arrest.They will also discover some weapons. And so things such as the jaywalking crackdown actually prevents a whole lot of crime downtown. Downtown's had a 23 percent drop in crime since 2002. Says Ricksecker.

Ricksecker says rather than discourage people from coming downtown, the crackdown on jaywalking will actually encourage visitors.

Both Schwab and Ricksecker deny the hefty fines attached to first and second offenses are not designed to separate residents from their money. But pedestrians interviewed in the Ohio State University campus area disagree.

OSU students Yacob Teklezgee and A.J. Joeshee. "If it wasn't for money they would probably just up the price to make sure people would think twice about it next time. $85 fine, Wow! I didn't know it was that big. I don't know, I think that's a little too high. If they're going to fine you that's fine but it should be no more than $25 or $30 I think."

Actually first time jaywalking offenders face an $86 fine. The second offense, if it comes within a year, will cost the offender $111. While not faced with hefty fines, drivers are encouraged to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks especially when making a right turn on red.

Marilyn Smith, WOSU News.