Ingleside Station’s new captain, David Lazar, has renewed stings on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks in his precinct, a popular practice among neighborhood residents that hasn’t been employed since a previous captain left years ago, according to witnesses of the sting.
"Fantastic, fantastic! We’re just so happy they’re doing it we’re cheering," said David Schermerhorn, owner of a motorcycle shop, who was walking with his wife Lea and their dog to a deli at Mission Street and Highland Street. "We’re thrilled – all the neighbors are thrilled."
Lea Schermerhorn added, "This is a really bad intersection. We’ve tried for years to get them to put a signal here and they won’t do it. It’s very difficult to see traffic coming up the hill."
Captain Lazar said they wrote 123 citations and towed 10 cars for driving without a license or with a suspended license. Of the total, 52 citations were issued and 8 cars were towed at Highland and Mission alone.
"It was a very successful operation," said Captain Lazar. "This is about the three Es: Education, Enforcement, Engineering. Today it was enforcement, but maybe we need to look at engineering too. I think we
see sometimes the city can look at this and say we have to put a signal
up or change the engineering somehow."
Captain Lazar added: "It’s our goal to ensure that pedestrians
are safe in the Ingleside district when crossing a crosswalk. Our
efforts are to prevent pedestrians from getting hit."
The operation used 15 officers total, with Lt. Jason Cherniss acting as the decoy, while cruisers and Harleys waited on the cross street, out of sight of motorists. At Mission and Highland, Lt. Cherniss crossed Mission Street in a well marked crosswalk with raised pedestrian crossing signs. When motorists yielded to him in the crosswalk, he smiled and waved. When they didn’t, he pointed at the vehicle and the waiting officers sped after the scofflaw.
When asked if he had heard good things from the public about the operation, Lt. Cherniss said, "It’s a mixed bag. For every ten people that like it, there’s one person that’s really angry. They don’t really know the definition of entrapment and they really feel like we’re setting people up. I tell the cops, if you don’t like the violation, you don’t have to cite. I’m just pointing at them to let them know they had enough time to stop or they are going too fast to even make that decision."
Rocio Martinez, who lives a few doors down from the intersection of Mission and Highland, said she and her husband were complaining about the problem the day before. "My husband and I are always crossing here. There have been a few times where he’s come back and told me ‘I almost got killed out there.’ People just don’t care. I see people almost getting run over every day. I’m so happy they’re here."
When asked if she realized Lt. Cherniss was an officer, she said not at first, but then she saw all the patrollers and motorcycles on Highland waiting to be deployed. "I didn’t know he was a decoy and I was like ‘Oh my god, they almost ran over him!’ But then I saw a cop chasing–finally a cop is nearby when it’s happening. I’m just happy."
Another man who wished not to be identified was pleased with the enforcement, though he wasn’t optimistic it would change driver behavior that much. "I think it’s a great idea. Long overdue. People don’t pay any attention to that sign when you’re in the crosswalk; buses don’t either, they just go right through. I’m halfway through the intersection and they just fly by."
"I strongly believe that this helps," argued David Schermerhorn. "It has empowered me to know that I own the intersection so that when I walk out into the intersection [I make] eye contact. I look down the street in a way now, that this is mine, you stop for me. I’m not asking permission. I feel like I do get more respect than I used to, but this is what it takes."
Pointing at the officers, Schermerhorn added, "I feel like I’m being backed up. I own the intersection when I’m in it and these guys here are backing me up."