Sitting on a sizzling leather seat under a scorching September sun, Sgt. Chris Jacobson of the Lodi Police Department watched closely as one of his cadets crossed the street at the intersection of West Lodi Avenue and Rose Street on Thursday afternoon.
The cadet, clad in street clothes, was being used as bait in a traffic sting. Drivers who yielded to him were allowed to continue on their respective journeys. Those who didn’t were pulled over and ticketed. The department’s traffic unit set up the sting at three separate intersections during the operation.
“We’re targeting intersections that have had a high number of vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents,” Jacobson said. “But we aren’t just having these guys dart out into traffic; they have parameters they have to follow.”
Twenty-six citations were written and two vehicles were towed during the four-hour operation. Officers set up at the intersection of Walnut Street and Ham Lane, Lodi Avenue and Rose Street, and Lodi and Avena avenues.
Two cadets participated in the sting designed to make citizens more aware of the importance of yielding to pedestrians. Vehicles striking pedestrians is a common occurrence in Lodi, highlighting the need for the crackdown, Jacobson said.
“The intersections we targeted have had a lot of incidents of cyclists or pedestrians hit by cars or complaints from residents,” Jacobson said. “We decided it was time to work some pedestrian safety enforcement, and we will do another in the coming weeks.”
He did not say where the next sting would take place or when it would occur.
The two cadets who participated in the exercise, John Piombo and Chris Gilley, had a strict outline for how they were to operate. They only entered the intersection when they had 400 feet of space from vehicles on either side of them.
They also had to first yield to vehicles, as California traffic laws indicate.
Once in the intersection, they would walk at a casual pace and test the approaching cars. If the cars stopped for them, they would not be ticketed.
“We are giving the vehicles a one-lane grace,” Jacobson said. “If they are within one lane of the pedestrian, they are getting a ticket.”
Cars that passed other vehicles that were yielding to pedestrians were also ticketed.
While the sting was closely monitored, there was still a risk of injury for the cadets.
“We just keep an eye out in all directions when we cross,” Piombo said. “If they are going too quickly, we’ll stop and let them go.”
The passing cars would then receive tickets.
When Piombo crossed the intersection at Rose Street and West Lodi Avenue, a truck towing a trailer of landscaping equipment breezed past him. Officers discovered the man driving was operating the vehicle with a suspended license during the traffic stop.
“He was driving because his wife — who has a valid license — was feeling ill,” said Officer Eric Versteeg.
“We’re towing the truck but letting them unhitch the trailer, because they need to make a living,” he said.
Occupants of the truck declined to comment on the sting to the News-Sentinel.
While most of the drivers receiving tickets were pleasant, others were more irritated in their response, Jacobson said.
“There were some who were mad and said they didn’t even see a pedestrian,” he said.
The exercise was not conducted with funding from the federal grant that enables the department to conduct regular DUI/driver’s license checkpoints.
And while some in the public may perceive Thursday’s operation as a scheme to enhance revenue for the department, Jacobson said that’s not the case.
“The percentage we make off tickets is minute,” he said. “We get about 7 or 8 percent of the bail on a ticket. And the bail portion is usually about $90. The rest goes to fees for the courts and county. This is about safety.”