Walla Walla police sting snares crosswalk scofflaws

More than two dozen people received warnings or citations during a police sting Thursday in local crosswalks.

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Walla Walla Police Department motorcycle officer Eric Knudson uses his radar gun to setup a crosswalk traffic sting just outside a school zone on Alder Street Thursday morning. Officers measured out 194-feet on each side of the crosswalk and placed small cones to create a zone allowing enough time for traffic to notice, react and stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk if they were traveling at 40-miles-per-hour. Thursday, September 16, 2010

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Plain clothes police officer Mike Burnett reaches for his radio protected under his rain jacket to tell waiting motorcycle officers to pull over a black SUV that did not yield to him in a crosswalk at the corner of North Third Avenue and Rose Street Thursday morning. Thursday, September 16, 2010

WALLA WALLA -- More than two dozen motorists received citations or warnings Thursday morning, and many more were observed making traffic violations, during a crosswalk and traffic sting by the Walla Walla Police Department.

Two motorcycle officers and one "decoy" officer who crossed busy intersections over three hours Thursday issued 15 citations that varied from crosswalk violations, speeding, driving without a seat belt or using cell phones while driving, said Officer Eric Knudson.

Knudson said many other drivers were observed violating rules of the road but were not able to be detained because officers were busy writing citations.

The department carried out the stings at crosswalks at Alder and Bridge streets, Third Avenue and Rose Street and School Avenue and Alder.

The officers were particularly trying to hit spots of heavy traffic where children walk or ride bikes to school. Alder Street is an arterial street for the morning and afternoon commutes, but is also a key route to reach Edison Elementary School, Pioneer Middle School and Assumption Catholic School.

Six of the 15 citations issued Thursday were for crosswalk violations. That means vehicles did not yield the right of way to the officer posing as a pedestrian while in the crosswalk.

Parents in the Walla Walla Public Schools system voiced concern during a recent School Board meeting at the lack of caution taken by too many drivers as children come and go from school. The parents were reacting to the recent case of two Pioneer boys who needed medical attention after being struck by a car in a crosswalk on their way to school one morning.

The parents have launched a task force to come up with solutions to vehicle safety around schools. Police are working with the School District, city and concerned residents to address the issue.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

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