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Traffic Crackdown : Police Put Extra Units on the Street

Times Staff Writer

Citation books in hand and tow trucks at the ready, an estimated 40% to 50% more traffic officers will be patrolling San Fernando Valley streets this week.

“This is not the best week in the year to commit a traffic violation,” said Lt. Alan Kerstein of the Los Angeles Police Department’s traffic division.

Because pedestrian deaths have nearly tripled over last year and hit-and-run accidents also have risen this year, Valley police officials decided to use special overtime funds allocated by the City Council in March for the stricter enforcement of traffic rules, Kerstein said.

Through Memorial Day next Monday, about 300 officers from the Valley’s five police divisions are cracking down on the six leading causes of traffic accidents: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, jaywalking, left-turn violations, running red lights and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

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Citywide Program

The crackdown is a citywide effort but will be especially intense in the Valley, officials said. Routine traffic citations already have been running 52% above last year in the Valley and are expected to soar this week, Sgt. Dennis Zine said.

On Sunday, the first day of the program, 52 people were arrested for drunk driving. Police ticketed 445 drivers for other offenses: 378 for moving-vehicle violations and 67 for jaywalking, officials said.

Police are concentrating on jaywalking because it is a common cause of death in traffic accidents, they said.

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In the City of Los Angeles, one out of three people killed in traffic accidents is a pedestrian, said Sgt. Greg Meyer, officer in charge of traffic coordination. Half the time the pedestrian is at fault, usually because he or she is jaywalking, Meyer said.

In the first four months of last year there were 5 pedestrian deaths in the Valley. This year there have been 13, Kerstein said.

One of the most troublesome spots for pedestrian accidents in the Valley is on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City near the intersection with Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Kerstein said.

Some of the other areas targeted for the crackdown are:

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The intersections of Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards in Sherman Oaks, and Sepulveda and Burbank boulevards in Van Nuys.

Sherman Way and Canoga Avenue, and Saticoy Street and Mason Avenue in Canoga Park.

Foothill Boulevard and Paxton Street on the outskirts of Pacoima.

Devonshire Street and De Soto Avenue, and Devonshire and Tampa Boulevard in Northridge.

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But Kerstein emphasized that police will be patrolling most major thoroughfares because “we find a plethora of violations everywhere in the Valley.”

Cars with expired registration tags will be impounded, Kerstein said.

“There is an obvious and definite correlation between unregistered vehicles and hit-and-run misdemeanors,” Kerstein said. People whose vehicles are unregistered or who have suspended licenses frequently leave the scenes of traffic accidents “because they know that if police respond, their car will be impounded.”

From Jan. 1 through April, 43 people have died in accidents in the Valley, compared to 41 in a similar period last year. There were 2,498 hit-and-run accidents in the Valley in the four-month period this year, an increase of 14 over 1986 figures, officials said.

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The beefed-up patrol will also include a mobile booking unit for drunk drivers to assist in arresting large numbers of intoxicated drivers.

Traffic officers hope that the crackdown, which coincides with the state’s Traffic Safety Week, will inspire motorists to practice safe driving year-round.

“We pay a lot of attention to traffic on holidays, but the rest of the year nobody really cares,” Zine said.


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