Pedestrian safety back on top of St. Pete PD priorities, thanks to new grant

Officers are launching a campaign to make pedestrians aware of the hazards at some of St. Petersburg's most dangerous intersections.

Three pedestrians died in crashes along the one-mile stretch of 4th Street North, where officers will focus their efforts.

Nearly $80,000 is being spent on the 8-month campaign to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.

So far this year, officers said 14 pedestrians and three bicyclists were killed in St. Petersburg. To prevent any more deaths, officers will spend time in neighborhoods with the most crashes. According to data from the Florida Department of Transportation, officers will target the area ranging from 4th Street North down toward 18th Avenue South.

“Our goal is to create a safe environment for everybody,” said Sgt. Bill Burris, of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

The increased enforcement comes just two days before Halloween, when families will walk the streets to trick or treat.

“We are going to try and hit the back ways and try to stay away from the main road as much as possible,” said Chris Johns, who plans to take his sons out for the holiday. “I just try to be as safe as I can. There’s a lot of people who simply don’t know how to drive.”

AAA said a car is twice as likely to hit a child on Halloween.

“I think that the pedestrians could do is make sure they are not wearing all dark clothing. I know that’s a difficult task when you’re talking about costumes, however, they can always wear a reflective band or have a light that’s flashing kind of like a bicycle light,” said Burris.

So, no matter who is on the road, officers just want people to pay attention.

“If we reach one person and change their behavior and prevent them from getting hurt or killed, we’ve accomplished something,” said Burris.

Police said they are reminding bicyclists to stop at lights and stop signs, and officers are encouraging pedestrians to use crosswalks. They are also using the enforcement time to educate - and write any citations if needed.

During the operation period in 2018, Sgt. Burris said fewer than 5% of the 2,407 interactions with people resulted in a citation.