ROBBINSDALE, Minn. - Dozens of drivers found flashing lights in their rear view mirrors at midday on Wednesday. Robbinsdale police were cracking down on violators of laws protecting pedestrians at crosswalks.
Police report 40 fatalities involving crosswalk violations in Minnesota in 2011. Thus far, in 2012,they report 15 such fatalities. The number of those injured was not available.
Robbinsdale Police executed a "sting" operation at 42nd Avenue and Regent Avenue using a civilian employee as a decoy, walking back and forth in the well-marked crosswalk. When a driver failed to stop for the pedestrian, a squad car roared in pursuit of the offender.
"The point of this detail is basically to increase awareness about pedestrian safety here in the community," said Ryan Pankratz, Robbinsdale Police Officer, "We have had a lot of complaints in the community about pedestrian violations."
In fact, Robbinsdale has set up such "stings" at other intersections recently and averages 80-100 citations issued each time. "People are not paying attention to people in the crosswalks or doing other things when they are driving," said Pankratz. "It is a public safety issue."
The point was underlined when KARE11 reporter Allen Costantini was confronted by drivers zipping through the intersection as he tried to cross 42nd Avenue. It was even closer for KARE11 Photojournalist Charles Barthold. A car clipped his camera when the driver did not stop as required by law.
Violations, under Minnesota Law, are "petty misdemeanors", carrying a fine of about $150. In the Wednesday sting operation, Officer Pankratz reported having issued 60 citations for failure to yield at the intersection. A number of drivers were simply given warnings.
In addition, one of the detectives involved in the sting arrested an individual on felony drug charges as a result of the crosswalk violation pursuit. The individual arrested was a passenger in the vehicle stopped. Officers found an outstanding warrant on charges involving methamphetamine and ecstasy.