Chicago police to pose as pedestrians to nab drivers

  • By Alex Parker
  • Staff Writer
  • April 16, 2009 @ 1:02 PM

Drivers beware.

The pedestrians darting in front of you might just be Chicago police officers.

The Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation are relaunching efforts to enforce pedestrian safety laws next week, using plainclothes, off-duty officers as bait.

The initiative is part of the Safe Streets program, and was put into place last June following the 2006 hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old girl crossing the street in Lincoln Park. It involves police officers walking in crosswalks. If drivers fail to yield to pedestrians, they will be ticketed by a police spotter further down the street.

Fines range from $50 to $500.

The program did not operate during the winter months.

In 2007, there were more than 3,600 vehicle-pedestrian accidents in Chicago, according to the lastest data available from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Thirty-nine were fatal.

“Providing a safe pedestrian environment is our number one goal,” CDOT Commissioner Thomas G. Byrne said in a press release.  “The initiative is designed to increase awareness among motorists about the importance of stopping for pedestrians. People should be able to safely cross the street in their neighborhoods.”

The risk for pedestrians is high, given the amount of traffic in Chicago, says Brian Steele, CDOT spokesman.

"There are some intersections that see 70-, 80,000 vehicles on a daily basis, along with a couple of hundred pedestrians," he says. "The vast majority of accidents - period - are primarily a function of either the motorist or the pedestrian behavior, and doesn't mean that an intersection is quote dangerous."

Crosswalk enforcement begins Monday at the intersection of Division and Hoyne. It continues at other intersections throughout the week.

At least two crosswalk enforcement initiatives will take place throughout the spring and summer in each of Chicago’s 25 police districts. Locations are close to schools, senior housing and retail areas. Many locations are near recent pedestrian accident sites.

The city has stepped up enforcement of traffic laws this year, installing dozens of cameras at intersections.

Crosswalk enforcement begins Monday

Monday, April 20: Division and Hoyne

Thursday, April 23: Nagle and Peterson

Saturday, April 25: 119th and Stewart; 103rd and S. Prairie; 86th and Commercial

Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.