A city advisory committee is recommending that Santa Fe’s elected officials pass a watered-down version of an ordinance aimed at deterring jaywalking.
Members of the Public Safety Committee agreed on Tuesday that the fine for the crime should be no more than $150. The committee also suggested the city consider conducting a public awareness campaign and enforcement “blitz” and inspect every intersection in Santa Fe to ensure that signals are allowing pedestrians enough time to cross.
Faced with a significant number of jaywalking deaths and injuries — one estimate is six deaths in the recent past — Santa Fe city officials have spent the past few months looking at ways to toughen up penalties for the petty misdemeanor.
Jaywalkers are currently fined $25, plus an additional $56 in fees. The proposed $150 fine would also have add-on fees.
Previous versions of the proposed “tougher” ordinance would have mandated that jaywalkers appear in Municipal Court and potentially face a fine of up to $300 and up to 90 days in jail. The Public Safety Committee approved such a proposal in November.
However, as the ordinance wound its way through the city committee process and picked up publicity, residents voiced unease with what they considered heavy penalties and crossing signal problems.
The Finance Committee recently sent the ordinance back to the Public Safety Committee for what councilors said was clarification on issues, including whether the city’s crosswalks give pedestrians enough time to walk across the street.
Jaywalking isn’t a heavily cited crime, according to Public Safety members, who said they’ve been told the city averaged about one valid violation per month over a recent three-year period.
Police Chief Ray Rael said that, if the city really wants to crack down, officers will probably need to be stationed specifically to observe jaywalking activity.
Municipal Judge Ann Yalman said that a court appearance and high fines can be a deterrent. Few people are cited twice for parking in a disabled spot, which requires offenders to come to court and carries a fine of between $250 to $500, she said.
There was some discussion about whether the Plaza should be excluded from jaywalking enforcement. Some committee members argued that people should be able to cross the street from the Plaza to nearby sidewalks, while one member argued that pedestrians have been hit by cars in the area.