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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Walk This Way: SFPD Nails Scads of Drivers in 'Pedestrian Sting'

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 2:38 PM

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In the city of San Francisco, it's probably a good idea to assume any stranger you encounter is actually an undercover cop. Particularly if that stranger is A) stumbling around drunk with $20 hanging out of a pocket; B) trying to buy your marijuana; or C) in a crosswalk.

On Wednesday morning around 9 a.m., Taraval Station Capt. Paul Chignell and five other officers conducted a sting operation targeting drivers who failed to stop for "pedestrians" at the intersection of Sloat Boulevard and Everglade Drive.

The wide crosswalk, clearly marked with highlighter yellow signs, largely goes ignored or unnoticed by cars traveling the busy, eight-lane street. "If you stay here long enough, you'll see something egregious," said Chignell Wednesday morning. He had just crossed Sloat, and a red Toyota that had driven in his path was being pulled over by a motorcycle cop.

This was no April Fool's joke. Over the course of about an hour, the seven undercover officers (four street crossers and three in police vehicles) nabbed one car after the next. Officer Mary Burns had the routine down pat. She'd wait on various corners of the street for groups of cars to approach, then make her way into the intersection aggressively shrugging her shoulders and facing her palms arm up.

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In some cases, she was cursed at, she said. Other drivers would motion for her to return to the curb. "I have the right of way," she would inform them, but some drivers would cruise on past. "Sorry," one yelled. If that driver wasn't really sorry, he was about to be.

As the cops conducted their sting, people occasionally approached and shook their hands. "Thanks for going after these guys," said a man who identified himself only as a neighborhood jogger. "It's horrific what goes on here."

The Taraval officers have been conducting the crosswalk stings at several intersections in the area, and Captain Chignell said people were beginning to catch on and stop for pedestrians. And that is apparently the point. "We're trying to get people to change their behavior," Chignell said.

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Ashley Harrell

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