SUNBURY — Multiple jaywalkers received warnings in the city Tuesday after Mayor Kurt Karlovich said he is cracking down on pedestrians disregarding marked crosswalks throughout the city.
As part of Karlovich's "Zero Tolerance October," he said he also instructed his police department to stop motorists who are not slowing down when approaching crosswalks and using cell phones to text while driving through the city
"This is not to be a nuisance to the public," Karlovich, who is in charge of the police department, said. "It is to remind everyone that pedestrian safety takes cooperation between both vehicle and foot traffic to obey the laws in order to make the streets a safer place for everyone."
For October, Karlovich said he wanted his department to also pay attention to distracted drivers using cell phones to text while operating a vehicle.
Karlovich first began to become concerned in April when he said he received several complaints from residents that motorists were speeding past crosswalks, he said.
"People are nearly getting hit by cars," Karlovich said. "I, myself, had my hand scraped by a passing car."
Karlovich spoke with Officer in Charge Brad Hare who said he was directed to place his officers while out on patrol on high alert of crosswalks, jaywalkers and individuals texting and driving.
"We have been instructed to watch out for this," Hare said, adding officers have been directed to "stop jaywalkers and vehicles who are not yielding at crosswalks and issue citations if need be."
Hare said on Wednesday that on Tuesday "multiple" individuals were warned by officers for either jaywalking or speeding through crosswalks. No citations were issued.
Hare said Pennsylvania law requires drivers to yield at all crosswalks and make sure there are no pedestrians walking. Jaywalking, however, is a bit more complicated.
According to USLegal, jaywalking refers to a person specifically a pedestrian who walks on the street or crosses the street without following any traffic rules.
Jaywalking is considered to be a misdemeanor if there is vehicle traffic or clear markings of a place to cross, the website states.
Shamokin District Judge John Gembic, who has served 19 years on the bench, said his office has never seen a case of jaywalking come through.
"Not once and not once was it even discussed," Gembic said. Gembic said he understands people who are not paying attention could cause an accident or even get struck, but that handing out citations is just not something he has seen done to curb the problem.
Sunbury District Judge Mike Toomey said since he took office two years ago, he has never seen a jaywalking case come across his desk.
City Administrator Jody Ocker supports the decision to increase enforcement, she said Wednesday.
"We want pedestrians crossing at crosswalks and not jaywalking," Ocker said. "We did get a complaint about this but we are not looking to arrest people or make this a business of giving tickets. We need to change the culture to more pedestrian-friendly."
Ocker said the city received complaints about a few crosswalks, including the ones at 10th and Market, Market and Horn Alley, by Scott Towers, Market and 2nd Street by Weis Markets, Chestnut and 7th St., and Chestnut and 10th St.
"We went out to these intersections and met with PennDOT to discuss what could be done," Ocker said. "One of the first questions was about enforcement. The mayor has since increased this enforcement.
Officers have the option of giving out warnings for the next couple weeks and then people could be facing fines, Ocker said.
Fines for non-moving violations start at $25 while motorists could face $50 fines for not yielding at crosswalks, Hare said.
According to state law when traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, “the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”
"All we are saying is pay attention if you are out walking and slow down if you are driving and be aware," Karlovich said.