'Cops in Crosswalks' Decoy Program Catches Drivers Unaware

Despite a flashing yellow light, orange cones and a lined pedestrian crosswalk, few drivers stop for pedestrian decoy cop on Hudson Terrace.

The Fort Lee Police Department set up a pedestrian decoy cop at the busy intersection of Hudson Terrace and Central Road Friday morning to enforce their pedestrian safety initiative.

"One struck pedestrian is one too many," Fort Lee Deputy Police Chief Tim Ford told Patch. Which is why Fort Lee is participating in the Department of Highway and Traffic Safety's 'Cops in Crosswalks' Decoy Program this spring. Fort Lee received a $15,000 grant to fund the cost of paying police officers who participate in the program--from decoys to ticket writers.

Drivers who failed to stop to allow the decoy cop to cross at the pedestrian crosswalk were asked to pull over where they were issued a traffic violation that carries a fine of $230 and adds two points onto their driver's license.

"We're just trying to save lives one pedestrian at a time," said Officer Antonio Hernandez.

Within the first 15 minutes that decoy officer Vincent Buda crossed the pedestrian crosswalk, 12 cars were pulled over. When asked if they knew why they were pulled over, every driver said that they did not.

One of the drivers who was pulled over, Krishna Venkatesh, said he never even realized that there was a flashing yellow light and asked if it was new.

"I travel this road three times a week," Venkatesh said. "Aren't pedestrian crosswalks also supposed to have 'pedestrian crossing' cones in the middle of the crosswalk as well?" he asked.

One man, who did not wish to give his name, said that he was on his way to take his 81-year old father to the doctor. "I had no idea why I was being pulled over," he said. "I just want to get my dad to the doctor.

Missing a few close calls with cars as he made his way back and forth across the street, Buda said, "When it comes down to you and a two-ton car, you have no chance."

In January, a 65-year old Fort Lee man, Gerard A. Deangelis, was struck and killed as he was crossing Anderson Avenue on his way to Madonna Church. This was in additon to the four pedestrian fatalities that occurred in 2012, and the more than 60 pedestrians who were struck by cars while walking.

Deangelis's family sent a letter dated April 4 to Mayor Mark Sokolich and Police Chief Keith Bendul. The letter states that although the family "applauds" the recognition of the problem regarding pedestrian safety, they feel that the proposed initiatives are "inadequate, misguided and ineffective."

The family feels that the focus of law enforcement should be on distracted drivers. It is their position that Fort Lee's police presence should be "stepped up" by focusing on those who violate the traffic laws in Fort Lee.

Both Chief Bendul and Deputy Chief Ford said that they are also focusing on drivers who do not obey the traffic laws, which is why they are participating in the 'Cops in Crosswalks' program.

"We're addressing the problem from every possible angle," Ford said. "We are trying to educate pedestrians to safety issues while at the same time enforce traffic laws."

Ford also said that the Fort Lee Police will be conducting the decoy 'Cops in Crosswalks' program throughout the spring.

"We're going to focus on pedestrian-heavy areas like houses of worship and schools," Ford said. "With Little League season right around the corner, we also want to focus our attention to Whitey Lang Field on Anderson Avenue which is heavily trafficked by both cars and pedestrians during ball games," he added.

One female driver who was issued a ticket, but did not want to give her name, said, "[Hudson Terrace] is like Route 4. Why they would have a pedestrian crosswalk here is just crazy."  


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BJ April 10, 2013 at 03:19 PM
One last thing Mr. Elmers: If you conform to the speed limits in town, especially on Anderson, Abbott and Center you become so much cognizant of everything around you. Not only that but if you fear getting ticketed - it increases your alertness ten fold. That's all that has to be done sir for this to be corrected. I sit in the park in the warmer months and watch these little kids run out into the street all the time. At least once a day it happens. On Sunday the mother or perhaps the nanny was busy talking and the kid went right out into the street. About two years old. THANK GOD the driver saw him - blew his horn - scared the hell out of the kid and the person came running. I've talked to the parents and nanny's. Many don't speak English. What's worse are the police cars that come racing IN and out of the station. They have to fence that park - there's no alternative. It's a catastrophe waiting to happen. Ask anyone who sits there on a regular basis - we see and talk to them all the time. Nothing is going to stop any of sir other than getting the drivers full and complete attention at all times. Simply put you cannot put this number of residents in a town of this size and not know and predict this would be the end result. Travel to any resort town where the population swells to these figures and look how traffic laws are enforced and precisely why. Because kids are running out there too. You can't stop it sir. You have to educate the drivers.
Art Elmers April 10, 2013 at 05:05 PM
BJ, So the question I think we both agree on is; How do we best educate the driver? I agree that enforcement needs to be increased. I would not mind if Fort Lee had a reputation for zero tolerance when it comes to traffic laws. There should be a mailing to every residence in Fort Lee spelling out this increased enforcement and the goals of reducing our horrendous rate of tragic pedestrian deaths and injuries. That way, no Fort Lee resident can claim they weren't warned. You stated; "Not one more innocent person should have to die or be injured in Fort Lee. It sure as hell isn't happening elsewhere." Upon reading this, I thought about why this is so. Beside the argument that our Police do not enforce the traffic laws adequately, what else could be the cause? An excuse I have heard before is our proximity to the George Washington Bridge. If that is the case Fort Lee needs to pursue our State Representatives and the Port Authority of NJ and NY to secure resources or personnel to protect our residents. I have seen safety corridors set up in high accident areas around the State where there is an increased State Police presence and doubled fines. Maybe we need to have all of Fort Lee declared a safety corridor so that we can have the same access as others to these resources. At the very least, I think there needs to be a community committee on traffic safety that meets on a regular basis with the police chief to suggest and review ways to reduce and eliminate this problem.
BJ April 11, 2013 at 12:47 PM
The fact of the matter is, the town is significantly over populated. Period. No other Borough in the entire State of NJ shares any of this. The damage is done and about to get a lot worse once those towers are complete. 900 rental units? Suffice to say, at least an additional 1500 cars. This is precisely what I mean about no regard for human lives and why I'm so angry. How do you conceivably do something like this? You've an epidemic on your hands and you consciously ADD and endanger even more residents? Only politicians who care and think only about themselves behave like this. The town is 2.5 square miles - even less when you factor in the highways. It comes to a standstill when the bridge backs up. Try getting emergency vehicles anywhere. You think Sokolich cares? He had no contingency plans for the hurricane - can you imagine what they'll do if the bridge were to go out? You can guarantee he expects the POA to handle it. What if the plane hadn't landed IN the Hudson River? What if it had hit the bridge or one of the many hi rises along the cliffs? Where are the emergency routes? They couldn't even get the elderly out of Horizon House during the hurricane. And look what they did to the ones on North Avenue. It was the residents and local businesses who came to their rescue. How truly pathetic. That's the most important aspect of all of this. Your starting point. The damage is done. Now what?
BJ April 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM
There is no way you could possibly ticket and educate every single pedestrian in this town. Nor is it thier fault. The town created this hazard. The only thing you can do is slow down the traffic and force the drivers to be constantly alert. No different than driving through Camden fearing for your life instead. Keep in mind it's TWO LOUSY MILES. Not 20, 200 or 2000. If they can't drive within the speed limit for such a short distance then they need to move out. And precisely why the PD won't do anything about it. Votes and fear people will do just that - leave. Think of all that lost revenue and why they're brining in even more residents.
BJ April 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM
I was in Palisades Park on Tuesday. Police are swarming the town. They on the other hand are NOT giving out jaywalking tickets or setting up decoys. Their enforcing traffic laws. Two two weeks ago I watched a woman get pulled over for failing to stop at a stop sign. On Tuesday there was a trap down by Route 46.


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