A heavy St. Petersburg Police Department presence was apparent last week on 34th Street, from 5th Avenues North and South as part of a fatality prevention operation aimed at educating the public on road safety.
This year’s increase in fatal traffic accidents inspired the operation, which took place Wednesday, December 12 to Friday December 14.
“We won’t change everyone’s behavior but we want to encourage safety.” said Sgt. Bill Burris.
According to the St. Pete Police Department, 40 people have died in traffic-related accidents on the streets of St. Petersburg this year, a sharp rise from 25 fatalities in 2017.
A high concentration of traffic and pedestrians in one area, particularly in the stretch patrolled during the operation, may be to blame for the tragedies, according to Lt. Edward Borrelli of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“We have a real DUI issue around the holidays,” Burris said. “And we’re trying to keep pedestrians safe by trying to get them to use crosswalks, wear slap bands and bright colors.”
Despite the heavy rain on Wednesday, Borrelli stopped an unknowing pedestrian that was crossing the street illegally.
“And look, that’s his truck that he was crossing to in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot,” Borrelli said. “People just don’t realize.”
The first day of the operation focused on a broad enforcement of all traffic violations, the second day concentrated on DUI-related issues, as well as distracted drivers. The final day of the three-day event sought out pedestrian, bicyclists and motorist violations.
“I’ve been out here every day of the operation and it’s really just a combination of general safety encouragement,” said Borrelli.
According to Borrelli, officers passed out bicycle lights and neon slap bands to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Every time we make contact we just want to inform,” said Borrelli. “Less than five percent of engagements lead to citations.”
St. Petersburg commuters may have also noticed a temporary glowing addition to 34th Street: speed awareness monitors and variable message boards that warned drivers to slow down.
Statistics from the Fatality Prevention Operation
The following results of the three-day operation were provided by the St. Petersburg Police Department.
17 moving violation citations
One non-moving citation
Three criminal citations
Four motorist warnings
Nine pedestrian warnings
One pedestrian citation
Two warrant arrests