Speaking at a public forum on pedestrian safety, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the department still plans to write jaywalking tickets.
“We’re not here to harass the public,” Sinagra said. “We’re here to educate, but sometimes it comes with a little sting.”
The May 27 forum was held after some in the community spoke out against the plan to write jaywalking tickets, saying it could result in fewer tourists and other visitors. But Sinagra suggested the community should be more concerned about another kind of reputation.
“If we don’t enforce the law,” Sinagra said, “Saugerties will get the reputation that if you go there you will get hit — no one will come here.”
Six residents attended the forum. No village trustees, Town Board members, local business owners or tourism officials attended.
Sinagra said there were nine “pedestrian / vehicle interactions” in 2012, 14 in 2013 with two fatalities, seven in 2014 with one fatality, and two as of April 30 this year.
Sinagra mentioned the cost of a ticket. Articles said it could be over $200, which is true, though he said more often tickets would be $15. He said officers would issue warnings before writing tickets and issue a ticket to anyone who gives the officer grief about being warned.
Jaywalking isn’t a legal term but describes a range of infractions, which include walking on the wrong side of the road, not using crosswalks when one is near, crossing the street diagonally rather than perpendicularly in the absence of crosswalks, and crossing against a “do not walk” sign.
Police will also be ticketing motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks with signage during “walk” periods, and at all times at crosswalks without signage.
Sinagra said that for about seven months his officers conducted an education campaign letting people know how to properly cross a road, and informing motorists what their role is when someone is crossing the street in front of them.
Village officials went so far as to bring in U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to the village to talk about pedestrian safety with Cahill Elementary School students.
Sinagra also plastered posters throughout the village and some of the town touting the department’s “See Be Seen” campaign.
So far police have written three jaywalking tickets: One to an intoxicated person who improperly crossed Market St., near Main St., and was struck by a vehicle, though no serious injury resulted; and two to pedestrians in the town walking on the wrong side of the road.
Some of the writers in online comment sections have asked, “Don’t you police have something better to do than to write tickets?” Sinagra said paraphrasing a number of the negative comments, “Well what’s more important than someone’s life?” said the chief.
“These are our concerns as well,” said resident town resident Chris Heidrick. “Safety is number one. Saugerties is a good community but you have to protect your residents and the tourists. If you save one life, then you are far ahead.”
“It’s all about saving lives,” Sinagra said.