COLUMBIA, SC — If you are partying in Five Points, you better not dash across Harden Street to get to the next bar.
Columbia police officers began focusing on jaywalkers last month after officers who regularly work weekend nights reported a “proliferation of near misses,” said Jim Crawford, a Columbia Police Department spokesman.
“They’re hopping from the sidewalk to an island without looking,” Crawford said of the pedestrians.
The police department also is cracking down on fast drivers on Harden Street, which has a 25 mph speed limit through Five Points, he said. Police hope their efforts get people’s attention so Five Points is more safe for pedestrians.
Crawford could not say how many tickets the department had issued for people who are illegally crossing the street or speeding. But officers charged seven people with illegal crossing on New Year’s Eve, he said.
Typically, people cited for illegal crossing are not taken to jail, Crawford said. But all seven cited on New Year’s Eve were booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Of those, five also were charged with drug or alcohol violations. Two others were arrested on the crossing charge but were suspects in car break-ins, he said.
According to state law, pedestrians must use crosswalks when they are available and only have the right of way when they are in those crosswalks. In an area such as Five Points, where crossing signals are used, pedestrians also must follow those signals.
Crawford was not sure how much the maximum fine for jaywalking is.
Officers also have been running radar on Harden Street, Crawford said. Several impaired drivers have been arrested from those efforts, he said.
Crawford praised the Five Points officers’ work, saying it was good policing because they have found people committing other crimes while enforcing the pedestrian and traffic laws.
In 2012, four pedestrians were injured or killed during a two-month period after they were struck by cars. One was a man in a motorized wheelchair who was killed after he was hit in a crosswalk by a commercial dump truck.
Amy Beth Franks, executive director of the Five Points Association, said she has not heard complaints from business owners or patrons about the recent enforcement.
She encouraged partygoers to follow pedestrian laws and asked drivers to slow down as they pass through the neighborhood.
“The Five Points Association has always been concerned with keeping the neighborhood pedestrian friendly,” she said.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.