Dear PoP – Should Police Be Giving Jaywalking Tickets or Focus on more Serious Crimes?

“Dear PoP,

Given recent discussions about crime, police, city life, etc. I was particularly impressed by the use of police resources I observed yesterday around 5:45 pm at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street. There were two DC cops standing in the median ready to ticket jaywalkers. A picture is attached. Is jaywalking really that big of a problem?”

While I think two police officers might be excessive, I actually don’t have a problem with one officer giving jaywalking tickets. This intersection can actually be rather dangerous and pedestrians do occasionally get hit and injured by cars (sometimes car at fault, sometimes pedestrian at fault.) Even though I admit I jaywalk from time to time and would be pissed if I got a ticket – in this case I think the officers are doing the right thing. If there was serious violent crime taking place in this police district I might feel differently.

111 Comment

  • Jaywalking is a huge problem at that particular intersection.

  • Jaywalking tickets are as useful as rolling stop sign tickets are as useful as tickets for turning right on a no right on red sign.

    They are small time “nuisance” tickets.

    They are annoying as hell when it happens to you. But when they stop people from annoying other people – valuable as all get out.

    That intersection suchs for peds, bikes and cars. Segways fly right thru though.

  • What is DC Mayberry now? Can they address all of the shemale hookers, drugs, random shootings, and stabbings first before citing people for walking with untied shoes?

  • Jaywalking in this city is ridiculous and a real hazard. Yes, the law should be enforced. Sure, 2 cops is excessive, but people really should not consider it acceptable to stroll in front of my car at night in the middle of the block.

  • I have no problem with this.

  • At that particular intersection jay walkers reallyback up traffic, especially for cars trying to turn. Wait 30 seconds for the light to change. It’s not that hard.

    • Ha! I believe that’s the intersection where my wife (on her way to work) once told me a guy with NY plates yelled at peds when he had the right of way: “Can’t you people read the f*&^%n sign??!?” It’s a great quote we always like to repeat.

  • You know where we could use a cop standing around all day? How about the MBT bikepath where 3 people were held up within 10 days. Plus there is shade for the police. I dunno, sounds like a good use of resources to me. Asshats.

  • Also, how is two cops excessive? 10 cops, sure, but two? Don’t they usually pair up if they’re on the street beat anyway?

  • It’s got to be controlled at that intersection because of the controlled right arrow for cars coming off of K onto Connecticut. When pedestrians walk agains the light–which happens at every light, without fail–they force cars to wait. With the missed opportunity to turn, the cars get backed up along that little service road.

    Additional hazard is potential for pile-up when drivers slam on the brakes to avoid hitting pedestrians. And then you always see people not familiar with the area blindly following jaywalkers out into the street. Ticket away, please.

  • If someone jaywalks in a situation where there’s no way they could be hit or force a car to slow down to avoid them (e.g., no cars within a block), then they’re not doing any harm at all. I’m strongly against ticketing anyone in that situation.

    But if someone jaywalks in a situation that puts him/her at risk, or forces a car to slow down to avoid them (even just a little bit), then yes, absolutely ticket that person.

    I’m not sure I’d make this a high priority, though. Ticketing red-light runners, cars that block the box, and cars that fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk all strike me as much higher priorities.

    • Yes, yes, and yes.

    • This is a well-constructed post. One of my big pet peeves about the “Stop for Pedestrians in the Cross Walk” champagne is that it is targeted towards drivers that don’t obey the law and not pedestrians that don’t obey the law. It’s a two way street that both parties need to comply with for safety and gridlock concerns. It contributes to larger traffic woes when the grid is thrown off. Likewise double parking is as bad. In short the focus needs to go to high impact issues and if jaywalking at this intersection is causing even moderate traffic delays then this effort is worth the time.

  • Anything that contributes to the gridlock downtown, including rogue pedestrians, intersection blockers, asshole bikers, and double parked cars/trucks should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    • What about the folks that drive in unnecessarily from MD and VA when they could be taking metro? I’m pretty sure they’re the ones causing most of the gridlock downtown.

      • What about the people who say outrageous and stupid things just to start online bitchfests? Im pretty sure they’re causing a great deal of global warming.

        Your moniker is quite appropriate.

        • “What about the people who say outrageous and stupid things just to start online bitchfests?” Look in the mirror, Anon.

        • I have no interest in a bitchfest. But I am frustrated that the DC government has no power to institute a congestion charge. The fact is, a number of cities with gridlock issues have done just that – and it works nicely! Are you seriously contesting my claim that much of DC’s congestion is caused by people who drive in from the suburbs (but pay little no taxes in the district)?

          • can’t do a congestion charge, but can make other choices to persuade folks from outside dc to drive in less. like charging higher taxes on parking garages, cutting down on the hours when you can’t park on roads (13th used to be cleared during rush hours, that got changed under Mayor Williams), and just a much bigger make the city a better place so commuters in md and va in the long run increasingly choose in live in dc.

          • I don’t understand why you say a congestion charge wouldn’t work. They introduced one in London and it ‘appears’ to have cut down on traffic congestion, I’m told. My dad doesn’t drive into town from the burbs any more – he catches the train. Of course, when you reach 65 in England you are considered an OAP (old age pensioner) and are entitled to free travel on the buses, London underground and the trains, so he basically travels for nothing these days.

          • Congestion charge won’t work because Congress will prevent DC from imposing one.

      • How do you know if it’s unnecessary or not? When I lived in NoVA and worked in DC I needed a bus, two metro trains, and another bus just to get to work via public transit. It took twice as long and was a lot more expensive than driving. And, unlike a lot of suburban commuters, I lived inside the Beltway.

        Why criticize VA and MD drivers when the DC drivers generally have less of a reason to be driving?

        • You chose where you live.

          • Whatever. The only way I could afford to live in DC was to save money by living in VA for a while.

          • Oh not this tired argument again. Obviously not everyone wants to, or is able to, live where they work. I highly doubt this many people enjoy sitting in a car for 3-4 hours every day.

        • But VA and MD drivers aren’t paying DC taxes. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect DC’s roads and intersections to cater more to the needs of its tax-paying citizens than those of out-of-state commuters.

          The majority of DC residents walk/bike and/or take public transit to/from work. Fortunately, this has led to things such as bike lanes, leading light intervals, Barnes dances, etc. Hell, on 14th street, a bunch of intersections even have zebra crossings where pedestrians can cross at their leisure.

          Livable, walkable, please.

          • “But VA and MD drivers aren’t paying DC taxes.”

            When you look at the level of federal assistance DC relies on: YES, they are.

          • My point was that is it is hardly “unnecessary” to drive in from VA or MD, unless you live in certain parts of Arlington where the public transit is decent.

          • anon, that federal government assistance doesn’t come close to the potential revenue DC could bring in if DC could taxes like other states. almost 60% of DC property is non-taxable due to the federal government and other non-taxable entities. additionally, unlike other states, DC can’t tax VA and MD residents who work in DC. the “assistance,” or money, that the federal government provides DC is chump-change compared to amount DC could bring in revenue if the federal government didn’t hamstring the city so much.

          • VA and Maryland residents do contribute a lot in taxes to the DC government – think of all the revenue the city would lose if they stopped buying food, drinks, and parking here. To act as if they’re not contributing whatsoever is just sort of retarded.

          • trixie, you’re putting words in my mouth (and apparently, i’m a retard as well?).

            i didn’t say they weren’t contributing whatsoever. i never said “whatsoever,” actually. of course they pay for food, parking or whatever else they may buy in DC. they pay sales tax on that stuff just like DC residents do. but they’re not contributing in the same manner that, say, a NJ resident who works in NY is contributing. NY would tax the NJ resident for income earned in NY. DC is not allowed to tax income for non-residents working in DC.

            my point is that DC loses out on a lot of revenue from non-residents working in DC.

          • I’ve always thought that monthly parking spaces in commercial lots should include a $500 (or other outrageously high number) tax.

            That way MD and VA residents could start contributing their fair share for driving into DC. And it would discourage the behavior, too. Sad thing is it would probably put lots of parking attendants out of work and those guys generally seem like good eggs.

          • John, I wasn’t even responding directly to your post (see the little “reply” button under Dim’s post?), so that was a tiny bit oversensitive.

            FWIW, with respect to Dim’s point, not everywhere is actually public transportation accessible, so while it’s an adorable idea to think that everyone who lives in MD and VA should totally bike and take public transportation, it’s just not feasible with the very poor design of the outer suburbs. Add in a commuter tax, particularly in the middle of a recession, and I think you’ll find that more and more businesses leave the district and head to the ‘burbs, which could have a pretty awful effect on sprawl, which is already out of control. Further, they’ll take whatever revenue they DO bring in with them. Of course, if you want them gone, that works.

  • Broken windows, man. Broken windows.

    A better question is should the city be spending money on Lincoln Navigators or on hiring more cops? I think we all know the answer to that one.

  • some guy just jogged out in front of me as i was exiting dupont circle onto new hampshire ave. and another lady, who was either elderly or handicapped crossed on my green on virginia ave, awkwardly, slowly skip-walking across the road. it’s like a video game out there. i can’t imagine how broken i would be if i ever hit a pedestrian with my car, even if it was no fault of my own, due to jaywalking.

  • Weren’t people bitching not two days ago that the cops don’t ticket jaywalkers, so they shouldn’t ticket bike riders who ride through a four way stop? Nearly bagged a biker this morning who ran through an intersection without stopping.

  • Hey, does anyone know what the law is for mid-block crossing? My understanding is that if you cross the street where there’s no crosswalk or light, it’s not technically jaywalking. You’re allowed to do it, you just don’t have the right of way, and have to yield to cars. True?

    • I believe the law states that if you cross mid-block in between two intersections that are controlled by traffic signals, then it’s jaywalking. Otherwise, it’s legal to cross mid-block as long as you do it safely (i.e., not darting out into the middle of oncoming traffic).

  • Waste of resources? They probably issued enough tickets at that intersection the first 30 minutes they were there to pay for those two cops salaries for a week. Sounds like an effective use of resources.

  • I’m ok with this.

    However, I’d like to see them also post a few cops at 19th/20th and L to ticket all the cars that run those lights. Cars regularly blow through those intersections *well* after the light has turned red.

    • Ha! You should see all the cars running the light and blocking the intersection @ 2rd & D NW every morning – on their way to Police HQ and the Court Houses. Funny, there’s NEVER a cop writing tickets at THAT intersection.

  • Two cops does seem excessive, and I would prefer cops focusing on more pressing matters, but on the other hand, jaywalking can be a serious problem. I see stupid jaywalkers crossing 14th street in Columbia Heights all the time, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents.

    • +1. I find myself having to stop for those fools all the time. They’re lucky I’m paying attention, because most of the time, they’re just shooting right out there, between cars, out from behind buses, in the dead of night in all-black clothes – and usually nowhere near a crosswalk…

      Sure, in certain circumstances you have the right of way, but that doesn’t make you immortal.

  • My co-worker got a jaywalking ticket there on Tuesday. I think the police are being a little intense. P left the curb while it was still okay to walk, not flashing & he didn’t quite make it across before the no waking came up. The officer said he was going to give him a warning, because he agreed he did leave the curb when it was legal, but then cop hands him a ticket. He is actually more upset that the cop lied to him than about the ticket.

    If they are going to ticket for this, they need to start ticketing for cars that consistently block intersections & make it very hard for us pedestrians to get around during rush hour – I think that is a much bigger cause of gridlock, than jaywalkers.

    • ah

      Did the warning come with a fine? I’ve gotten a warning that looked like a ticket but had no fine (for speeding) because it allowed them to prove how much work they weren’t doing in their sting.

    • How about ticketing bikers on the sidewalk. Its illegal south of Mass Ave. Look it up.

    • That cop was wrong to do that and your co-worker should call the city to complain. There are some intersections where you have to be on the curb and ready to step out because the walking man instantly changes to do not walk red flashing countdown 2 seconds in. the corner of I and 15th is a prime example.

  • The city gov. should institute a fee for entering downtown during rush hour. That should solve the issue of gridlock.

  • Similar to JB’s post, I don’t think that light is long enough to allow peds enough time to walk. I don’t go through there frequently, but as a native NYer who powerwalks everywhere, I’ve barely beat that light. I know other K street intersections have that problem as well.

    • Good point.

      Try contacting your councilmember and seeing if you can get him/her to talk to DDOT about the timing of the walk sign.

      Another issue might be (depending on the particular intersection in question) when the light changes from the “walking man” sign to the seconds countdown, or if it has the seconds countdown from the get-go.

      I feel like I’ve walked across some intersections where the countdown part should’ve kicked in earlier — I’d start off with the “walking man” sign, but then found myself having to run to make it across once the countdown started. (And I’m not a slow walker.) So in some cases, it might make sense for the countdown to start earlier, or for it to be countdown the whole time.

  • I got a $20 jaywalking ticket when I hit by a car! like really hit by a car. like the cop followed the ambulance to the hospital and wrote me the ticket while I waited for surgery covered in blood. makes for a good story at least. Go MPD!

    • ah

      Well, were you jaywalking or did you have the right of way?

    • I feel like this may be a troll, but I’ll feed it anyway. If you were jaywalking and got hit, the cop did a huge favor to the car driver by memorializing your fault with a ticket. I think that is a Prop to the cop.

      • I would think the surgery probably did a sufficient job memorializing the problem, but maybe that’s just me.

        • He’d have needed the surgery regardless of fault. The citation proved that the walker, not the driver, was at fault. It could save the driver huge insurance increases, maybe even a lawsuit.

    • I should have added, I was in the wrong and dutifully paid the ticket, and I realize it was likely for insurance purposes.

      but I would have preferred a written warning.

    • So, do you still Jaywalk? Or is Mendelson right: punishment doesn’t work. Wait… are you a young person who just needs a job…and a hug?

    • claire

      My sister also got a jaywalking ticket when she got hit by a car (in Seattle). She was crossing behind a bus that was making a right turn on red at the intersection.

  • They do this because its easy and people will pay. Because if it was truely a safety issue they should be ticketing 90% of MD drivers using cell phones, DC public school bus drivers listening to head phones, texting with kids in the bus. ALL CAB DRIVERSm, etc….

    These are not as easy as handing out tickes like Lloyd Christmas hands out hundreds at his Aspen Hotel.

  • Jaywalking in this city is ridiculous because traffic light wait times are ridiculous and cater exclusively to cars (not pedestrians). If they want to ticket or warn jaywalkers/bikers, why not use meter maids, not specially trained police.

  • Overheard in Dupont Circle last week by [presumably] tourists mid-jaywalk: “We have the right of way”


  • There is a very fundamental issue right here. You see the District is facing a budget shortfall and these cops ticketing jay walkers helps bridge that gap with fines. It is the same reason why the District has been issuing lots of parking tickets and booting and towing cars. It’s all money. Now shutting down that night club mentioned a few posts earlier costs them money. Why would they want to do that when there is easy money to be made?

    In no way am I agreeing to this mindset, but it’s a fact of life.

    • They would generate more revenue if they ticket people for driving while texting/talking on cell phone. Of course, they might have to ticket themselves as well.

  • I’d like to see one, just one person stopped and ticketed for not stopping for the marked crosswalks at 16th and Kalorama near Meridian Hill Park. MARYLAND commuters treat that 25 mph street as a four lane highway and do their best to intimidate or damn near run over pedestrians. I’ve lived two blocks away from that crosswalk for 3 years and have yet to see one lousy cop pull over one irresponsible driver. Jaywalkers are not nearly the problem car drivers are and frankly, the $100 tickets for ignoring a pedestrian in a crosswalk with a legal right of way could bring in tons more revenue for the city. This is what happens when you have a car-centric twit in charge of the council putting his cronies in charge of transportation. RECALL KWAME!

    • Wow. Talk about a centric prespective.

    • +1 — couldn’t agree more.

      -1 for copying my handle, though…

    • Oh no!!! marylanders!!! they’re evil!!

      • No, just stupid.

        Stupid is usually more dangerous to bystanders than evil.

        • I’m from Maryland. If someone from DC calls me evil or stupid I take it as a compliment.

        • I would have to imagine that since Marylanders, on average, earn more money, have a higher educational level, and accumulate more wealth, that they are in fact smarter than people who live in DC.

          Its a stupid argument.

          I wish people who live in DC would stop bitching about MD/VA. They are just showing their ignorance. These are petty prejudices. They’re not even stereotypes, they’re so off base.

          • +100 They are actually pretty funny to me. It seems people from MD and VA cause all of DC’s problems. Congress should build a fence around its little city.

        • There are alot of MD anon’s today.

          And alot of those MD’s forget that all of MD is not MoCo. And northern MoCo is not southern MoCo.

          Trolling onward.

      • people gotta hate on someone. iowans to too few and far between.

    • I almost got hit there this morning. As usual, I waited for the light at 16th/Euclid to turn, so I could safely cross. I then started crossing 16th east, to go into the park, and was in the 1st lane.

      The traffic going north stopped before the crosswalk, yet a car turning southbound onto 16th from Euclid sped the fuck up and almost ran me over – I had to jump into the northbound lanes. The lovely 20 something gingerhaired bastard then slowed down and did the “Oh sorry” wave….. still want to hunt him down and slowly kill him.

      He had DC plates. Mad me very sad to see that.

      RECALL CARS! (i keed)

  • I jaywalk all of the time but I never stop traffic. I really only do it when it is perfectly clear.

    What they should be doing is giving tickets to idiots that block the box time and time again. Or if they want true revenue give tickets to those that do not yield to pedestrians rightfully in the crosswalk. When I lived in Boston they did this and made a lot of money for the city in a couple of days time.

  • I don’t have a problem with this any more than I have a problem with cops giving tickets for red light running.

  • Have they at least tried signs stating that “Jaywalkers will be ticketed” or something to the like?

    I have never seen a sign like this and frankly, I think it would cause me to reconsider.

    But maybe I’m being too Pollyannish. I’ve actually thanked a cop who yelled at me before I was about to jaywalk but I still do it pretty regularly if there is no traffic coming.

  • I don’t have a big problem with this, but in general, the lights are timed in such a way as to encourage jaywalking. There are a million examples of DDOT putting the priority of motor vehicle traffic ahead of all other users, but the examples that spring to mind first for me are crossing Pennsylvania & 11th SE on Capitol Hill, crossing 11th westbound at the far SE corner of Lincoln Park, and pretty much the clusterfuck around Dupont Circle.

    It’s no secret that when you make pedestrians wait an incredibly long time to cross the street, then give them an insufficient amount of time to cross, they’re going to jaywalk.

    Same would happen if we set a traffic light to stay red for, say, three minutes. My guess is that most drivers would run it. People obey the signage they see as reasonable.

    • Yea, this is pretty much common sense. Which is to say DDOT will do things excatly the opposite.

      It’s true the WALK signals are totally f’ed up around Dupont. Why are they timed to strand pedestrians standing on the curb between Mass Ave and the outer loop?

  • I have no problem with them ticketing jaywalkers. I walk all the time and I am really surprised more people haven’t gotten run over with the way they just step off the curb without looking. Yesterday I reached an intersection just as a car was starting to roll out. I had stopped, but the woman next to me just stepped off the curb without even looking to see that a car was coming at her. I see this kind of entitlement behavior more and more.

    I do my share of jaywalking, but that is if things are clear and I am not running the risk of getting hit.

  • This is the city. If you don’t like jay-walking tickets go work inthe suburbs! LOL. Sorry could’t resist.

  • I got no problem with it. An added bonus is that when a buddy got one we got an excellent laugh out of it.

  • Pretty sure a whole lot of the people that hate MD/VA so much are from Ohio or Missouri, and have been living in DC for 4 months.

  • Plainclothes officers…

    If they used them instead, and made it so you couldn’t tell if there were police checking for jaywalkers at any given time, it’d do a lot more in the long term. As is, people will just jaywalk again the second those cops are gone.

  • Can we have them on Georgia Avenue please??!!! I’m tired of almost hitting someone every day because they decide to run out into traffic. And I admit it, i jaywalk too, but at least I look both ways and do it when there isn’t traffic

  • I have no problem with them ticketing jaywalkers. I see hordes of them on Pennsylvania Avenue crossing the street despite cars/bikes having the green arrow.

  • What´s the fee for a jaywalking ticket?

  • I with they’d move across the park and ticket the cars turning west on I street from 17th. Seriously — they don’t wait for pedestrians to cross I before they start turning.

    And then there’s the cars going west on I that block the street and sit in the crosswalks causing traffic jams.

  • austindc

    As a frequent jaywalker (I’m actually jaywalking right now as I type this on my phone without looking and rocking out on my ipod), I think this is great. Heck, we got to enforce the little laws too. And I don’t think two cops are excessive. I think cops should always be in pairs for their own protection and also to hopefully keep each other honest. Frankly, I think they look kind of adorable out there.

  • I’d rather they focus on rogue bicyclists….

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