Jaywalking tourists pay, too
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
When Dennis DiMarco crossed the street last Wednesday night near the Hawai'i Convention Center, the visitor from Connecticut looked both ways and figured he could make it safely even though he wasn't in a crosswalk.
Then a plainclothes police officer handed him a $70 jaywalking ticket.
DiMarco, 54, got mad, figuring that police have better things to do than tagging tourists. But he got caught by an officer assigned to the Pedestrian Safety Task Force formed to respond to an alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities.
And he was jaywalking on a half-mile stretch of Kapi'olani identified as having four of the 10 most accident-prone locations on O'ahu, according to a 2005 Advertiser analysis.
Honolulu police say they don't target tourists for tickets but won't ignore a violation, either. Police Maj. Frank Fujii said police cite far more residents than visitors for jaywalking.
"We have a responsibility to public safety," he said. "Sometimes we have to do things to protect the community that they might not enjoy."
DiMarco, who has visited Hawai'i more than 30 times over the past three decades, said he was shocked by the fine.
"Seventy bucks? That is preposterous," he said.
DiMarco admits he was jaywalking but figured he'd judged the distance well enough to be safe and not slow or stop any drivers.
"I'm a big boy. I've been crossing streets all my life," he said.
Fujii said the officers who tagged DiMarco are focused on pedestrian safety and not being removed from investigating violent crimes or other offenses.
Police Maj. Randy Macadang-dang said pedestrian safety remains a big concern in Waikiki, where he works. He said pedestrian violation fines range from $70 to $95.
From Jan. 1 until April 15, police in Waikiki issued 2,100 citations or warnings for jaywalking and other related pedestrian offenses, such as walking against the warning sign, against red light and other related violations, he said.
During the same period, Macadangdang said, drivers received nearly 100 citations and warnings for pedestrian-related concerns such as failure to yield.
Anne Murata works daily in the heart of Waikiki as director of marketing for The Festival Companies, which manages The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. She said she frequently sees visitors jaywalking.
"They're on vacation; they're not thinking and they're not stopping," Murata said. "We certainly don't want anyone hurt."
Murata heard that police have been handing out tickets recently in addition to giving warnings, and said she would favor more warnings.
But she understands the reason for the tickets. "Truly, I think it's for their own safety," she said.
In addition, the islandwide special pedestrian safety task force has issued a total of 5,668 citations plus 781 warnings to both pedestrians and drivers. That includes more than 1,500 tickets for jaywalking and more than 300 similar pedestrian-related offenses and more than 300 warnings.
City Councilman Charles Djou, who represents the Waikiki area, said people sometimes need reminders to be safe.
"I understand nobody likes getting a jaywalking ticket," Djou said. "But unfortunately, because we have had all those problems regarding pedestrian accidents, I am happy that HPD is going out and enforcing the jaywalking rules."
Macadangdang said just last month he and other officers from his district handed out at least 200 fliers warning visitors about pedestrian safety, printed in Japanese as well as English.
"We give a lot of warnings," Macadangdang said. "Some know the traffic laws and some don't."
Police find that most of those they stop admit they knew they were taking a chance. "Most of the people know that jaywalking is against the law and not safe," he said.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Robert Finley said some people have complained that police have been ticketing on Hobron in an area where residents sometimes jaywalk to get to The Food Pantry. "They've all been getting tickets," he said.
The board is asking the city to consider painting another crosswalk in that area.
As for DiMarco, he's back at work in Connecticut. He told his co-workers about the $70 jaywalking ticket. How did they react?
"They put a taped crosswalk in front of my desk," he said.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.