Students who disobey traffic laws on campus may have more to contend with than VSUPD.
Officers from the Valdosta Police Department were on campus Aug. 18 giving $112 tickets to jaywalking pedestrians and motorists not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalks.Ten to 15 tickets were issued to students.
Valdosta Police Chief Frank Simons stated that trying to protect students has been an issue for some time, noting that the fence on the Patterson Street side of campus in front of West Hall, as well as another traffic light with crosswalk, was actually put up to lower the number of students jaywalking across Patterson.
“I want you to know that we are glad the students are in town,” Simons said. “We are in no way trying to pick on students. We’re just trying to make sure that everyone makes it home for Christmas vacation.”
Lieutenant Aaron Kirk with the VPD’s Professional Standards Unit stated that the VPD officers on campus Thursday were merely responding to complaints the department had received from professors about students crossing at the intersection of Brookwood Drive and Toombs Street.
Students were crossing at the intersection and not using the nearby crosswalks or walking at the crosswalk through traffic.
Kirk urges students to cross only at crosswalks.
“Motorists are more attentive at crosswalks,” he said. “Crosswalks have a purpose.”
According to Officer John Chamberlain of the City Traffic Unit for Valdosta, officers were giving tickets to prevent people from getting hit.
Though the crosswalks all lead to campus, the city police actually have jurisdiction over the roadways, which is why the officers ticketing at the corner of Baytree Road and Oak Street were from the VPD.
“If someone had got hit at that intersection, that would have been our call,” Simons said.
This intersection is definitely one of the busiest on campus. With the newly built Jennett Lecture Hall facing Baytree Road, there is now more foot-traffic across the intersection than there was even last semester.
“As the campus changes, it changes the concentrations of where students are on campus and the likelihood of where accidents occur,” Simons said.
Simons ranks the Baytree-Oak intersection in the top three of the campus’s busiest intersections.
VSU Police Chief Scott Doner and Simons agreed that the VSUPD has a good working relationship with the VPD and both are working to keep students safe.
The crosswalks on Brookwood Drive and Georgia Avenue have recently been painted and the signs have been moved to make the crosswalks more noticeable, Doner said.
Reactions to VPD presence on campus have not all been positive, however.
“[The VPD] should have worked with VSUPD if this was a problem,” Russell Mast, Dean of Students, said. “I would like to know what the rationale was here.”
Mast said that he had not personally heard any complaints about jaywalking being a problem on campus and was not comfortable with the VPD coming in and handing out such large fines to students on campus, especially during the first week of school.
“We want to be good neighbors with the city,” he said.
He stated that he would like to have been made aware of any issues on campus so that the university, VSUPD, and the city could work together to solve them.
Many students also believe that the citations were excessive.
“[Jaywalking] is not a big enough problem to have people get tickets for it,” Lindsay Hansen, junior public relations major, said. “It’s something you hear about in big cities not in Valdosta, Ga. I don’t think it’s something that cops should be worried about. People pay attention. I understand it’s for safety reason but I don’t think it’s that big of a problem to cost $112.”
Harrison Pratt, sophomore political science major, agrees. “I think if people could be responsible to look both ways then it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “It’s very excessive.”
Pratt felt that a $15-20 fine would have been tolerable, but the $112 fine was just too much. “It kinda felt like they were trying to make their quota,” he said.
Students like Elektra Edwards, however, understand the necessity of enforcing the traffic laws against jaywalking.
“I kind of see [jaywalking] as a big problem because sometimes the walking sign is off and people try to sprint across and they’re slowing down the traffic of other cars,” she said.
Edwards did think the $112 fine was excessive, however.
To the VPD, Simons said, it all comes down to safety and the officers do not even set the amount of the fines. The court does that, he said.
Kirk also stated that the VPD may give more citations at any time. The department is just enforcing traffic rules, he said.
Kirk also encouraged the VSUPD to keep watch over heavily congested areas as they make their rounds on campus to ensure students’ safety. If there was a major issue, the VPD would work with the school to correct the problem, but in regards to this incident, he said, the department was merely responding to a complaint.
Editor’s Note: In the Aug. 25 Edition of The Spectator, the subhead stated “VSUPD targets jaywalkers”. It was meant to say “VPD targets jaywalkers”.