Is Somerville Police’s Undercover Crosswalk Enforcement Excessive?

Does the department’s undercover crosswalker help with pedestrian safety or just generate revenue for the city?

The above video of an undercover crosswalk sting in Somerville has garnered quite a bit of attention (and over 150,000 views) since it was posted to YouTube last Thursday.

In the video, an undercover officer repeatedly crosses the street using the crosswalk. When a driver doesn’t stop, a Somerville Police cruiser is waiting to issue a ticket.

The video, “Cop Fishing: Revenue Collection Trap,” was posted by user savyfide, who seems to post videos of what he or she believes are police officers in the wrong. It’s since been picked up by a number of media outlets, including TheFreeThoughtProject.com, BostInno and even Britain’s The Daily Mail.

A number of online commenters, including TheFreeThoughtProject.com, have criticized the department. TheFreeThoughtProject.com’s lede: “A video uploaded to [Facebook] Monday (June 30) shows what low levels police will sink to in order to generate revenue.”

On Monday, July 7, the Somerville Police Department responded to critics of the operation in a Facebook post.

Read the Somerville Police Department’s rebuttal below and let us know what you think of the undercover operation in the comments.

The department’s rebuttal:

The City of Somerville takes safety very seriously and pedestrian safety is no exception. Somerville experiences on average 47 pedestrian accidents per year, and a pedestrian was killed just last month in a crosswalk in Davis Square. As the cars speeding by the pedestrian in this video show, increased enforcement is clearly needed for crosswalks. Just as we enforce stop signs, speeding and red lights, we must enforce crosswalk regulations as well to ensure resident safety, especially the safety of children and seniors. This intersection has seen a number of pedestrian and cyclist accidents over the years and was recently identified as one of the top intersections of concern in the city. At intersections such as this where drivers clearly are not stopping as required, we prefer to have an officer out there rather than wait for an unsuspecting resident to risk getting hit. 

The Somerville Police Department worked with state and federal transportation and public safety agencies to target this area specifically to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

Additionally, the city restriped or added more than 2,000 crosswalks citywide, added or repaired more than 1,800 damaged or faded traffic signs, and installed about 300 reflective signs for added visibility on pedestrian and stop signs. We're trying to make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians in crosswalks and know when to stop. But when they fail to do so, it is our duty to enforce the laws that keep our residents safe.

kevin thomas crowley July 10, 2014 at 09:50 AM
they have about 16 eavesdropping cameras throughout the city(and all connected to room in D.C. where all America is being watched), the police could use them. I am just as concerned about all the young people who cross the street without even stopping or looking. city should paint STOP on the street pavement at the point where people step onto the street. I do not think this is a revenue issue. kevin crowley
veronikamk July 10, 2014 at 05:41 PM
My elderly mother was hit by a car while in a crosswalk in a nearby quiet town. She was badly hurt, had a knee operation to put her knee back together and spent 4 months in a rehab. She will never walk without assistance again which has aged her considerably. As a pedestrian I can stand at a crosswalk for several minutes before anyone will stop. The cars just fly by and ignore you, and when I'm crossing I try to make eye contact with each driver before walking out because I've had so many close calls where someone isn't paying attention and nearly hits me mid-cross. I often wonder why police don't take crosswalks more seriously and pull people over who don't stop. It's about time they did something!
Mark Simmons July 17, 2014 at 01:24 PM
This problem works BOTH ways. There is a false sense of entitlement that accompanies this crosswalk law. People think that they can walk right into a crosswalk without breaking stride or even looking around. Crosswalks that are equipped with "don't walk" lights are almost completely ignored. The red hand means stop. Perhaps if EVERYONE respected the rules, we'd all be better off. Maybe start handing out some jaywalking tickets? There are written laws for that as well.
Frank Mulligan July 18, 2014 at 07:33 PM
The old SAYING today, I'll beleive it when, I see it. I'm sure Somerville will do what's good for EVERYONE, People have been getting bad injurie's . Driver's just think you DON"T STOP you get written UP, Is it worth 5 yrs on INSURANCE. good Luck Somerville.
AHM July 18, 2014 at 08:19 PM
Watched the police from a dead stop and no sriens or lights flashing cut off a pedestrian crossing Broadway to Cedar street who was more than half way accross Broadway when the lights turned green.Guess the young girl should have moved faster.


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