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Mayor slams Williamsport crackdown on jaywalking

May 12, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A self-proclaimed jaywalker, Mayor John W. Slayman on Monday criticized a local police campaign to protect pedestrians and clamp down on violators.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department, the Hagerstown Police Department and the Smithsburg Police Department have a $5,000 pedestrian safety grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

They may use the money to pay officers to watch for pedestrians who don't use crosswalks and motorists who recklessly go through intersections, said Kellie Boulware, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, which issued the grant.

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Slayman set aside a portion of Monday's Williamsport Town Council meeting to criticize the grant and clarify that the deputies assigned to the town are not taking part in the enforcement effort.

"I jaywalk all the time," he said.

His advice to the audience: "Don't get caught."

Council members took turns criticizing the project.

"I think they could have found a better way of spending grant money," Assistant Mayor Walter W. Tracy Jr. said.

"Yeah, drunk drivers or something," Councilman Monty R. Jones said.

A handful of residents at Monday's Town Council meeting questioned whether elderly people should be ticketed and whether pedestrians should be forced to cross the street where it's not safe.

Jones, who owns Byers Market and Always Catering on North Conococheague Street, said he regularly sees state troopers and sheriff's deputies "run across the street" in front of his shop, which is not at the corner.

Police have the option of warning violators or giving them tickets, Boulware said. The grant, which took effect Oct. 1, will continue until the money runs out, she said.

A new Maryland law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

1st Sgt. Robert Leatherman of the sheriff's department referred questions Tuesday to the Washington County Health Department, which is administering the state grant.

A Health Department representative didn't return a call for comment.

Last month, Andrea Harris, the Health Department's program manager for prevention services, said, "It started as a state initiative, but we did note that we had a problem, enough of a problem to warrant attention."

Of the three accidents that killed local pedestrians in 2003, the pedestrian was at fault in one case and drivers were at fault in the other two, Harris said last month.

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