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LAPD Explains Wilshire/Vermont Pedestrian Ticketing

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"Are we waiting there, trying to trick people, laughing? Absolutely not. We're police officers and we're targeting intersections where people have gotten run over." That's Sgt. Christopher Kunz with the Los Angeles Police Department, responding to our questions about the police ticketing people at Vermont/Wilshire. As previously noted, cops are handing out hefty fines to pedestrians who cross after the red hand has started blinking. And you know what? Kunz was angry it would appear that cops are doing anything but trying to save people's lives in Los Angeles. He's also angry people run out in front of cars. "Why would anyone step in front of a 3,000 pound car," he asked, going on to describe a recent car accident--unrelated to the pedestrian issue--in which a man's body "was ripped in two." "I would rather get shot than get hit by a car," he added. More of our interesting conversation follows....

As Kunz (who is with the Los Angeles Police Department West Traffic Division) explained, police officers ticket people who enter the street when the red hand has already started flashing.

It's not a traffic-related project, he said, but part of an effort to reduce accidents in the area. In the West division-roughly the area bounded by Imperial highway to Mulholland to the ocean to Normandie, 200 people were hit by cars (30 were killed) last year.

As far the cops doing this as a "money-making" business, as some readers suggested: Because it's a vehicle code violation, it's a state code. Money from the tickets is split between the state, the county and the city, he said, noting the city's share of that split is insignificant. "If we wanted to make money," he said, jokingly, "We'd give out parking tickets instead. Parking violations fall under the city code." [ED: He was joking and being sarcastic, people]

He also noted that if you start crossing when the red hand has already started and then get hit by a car, it's "impossible" to prosecute the driver because you violated the law.

OK, but how about educating people instead of fining them? Curbed admitted that we didn't know it was illegal to enter the street after the red hand was flashing. If anything, we thought that meant: Hustle! Kunz berated us for a bit about our ignorance ("I suspect you learned [the rule] and then forgot it"), and then explained that the police department has programs where they teach senior citizens and kids about the red hand flashing sign. He pointed out there are federally-funded programs ("Click it or ticket"), although he did say the content of the programs wasn't decided by the LAPD.

So, Curbed's consensus? More education is needed or at least reminders for adults should be in place.